Orphanage construction builds friends in Latvia

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Allen Pickert
  • 190th Public Affairs
Coyotes engineer a better life for orphans in Latvia while deterring aggression at the same time.

The 190th Civil Engineering Squadron spent most of June in Daugavpils, Latvia, working with Latvian military engineers renovating an orphanage.

Funded by European Command, this humanitarian civic assistance project is designed to improve relations with the host country while practicing military cooperation. In this instance, it also happens to improve the facilities and lives of 53 Latvian orphans.
The project included major improvements to the building from the foundation to the roof, and everything in between. The more than 40 member team included eight Latvian Army engineers and the rest from the 190th.

Staff Sgt. Aaron Rowley, a first time deployer with CES said, "The different systems and language posed a real challenge the first couple of days, but we made it work."
They truly made it work because after the first few days, the local Latvian contractors began thinking of extra projects for our engineers because they did not expect the Americans to be so proficient in their construction skills. Rowley was also impressed by the CES teamwork, saying it was one of his favorite things about the whole trip.
The entire CES team voluntarily came to the orphanage on one of their days off to give toys and gifts to the orphans, and lend their muscle to some extra clean-up projects the orphanage needed.

While there was a lot of teamwork and relation building on the work sight in Daugavpils, the team actually stayed in an empty school house nearly a half hour away in Medumi, Latvia. Relation building continued there, much of it done through the international language of soccer. "Maybe you couldn't talk to each other before playing, but on the soccer field it showed we are all alike, and I liked showing the ethnic Russians that we can work together and be friends," said first time deployer Senior Airman Daniel Robinson-Lopez.

Eastern Latvia, the Latgale region, is full of ethnic Russians with Russian being the common language. This deployment and joint operations with the Latvian Army engineers helped to build working relations between the different regions of Latvia and the United States.

Airman 1st Class Samantha Ghareeb on her first deployment said, "My favorite things have been experiencing a new culture and the food. The people are friendly:  we've been received really well here."

While the excitement of her first overseas deployment topped her list, the teamwork of CES wasn't far from her mind, "I wouldn't want to deploy with anyone else. I feel safe with CE." she added.

Teamwork comes naturally with the 190th CES and that same teamwork grew easily with the Latvian soldiers, civilian contractors and orphanage staff.

As Senior Master Sgt. Casey Batterton, a long time staple of the 190th CES says, "Every aspect of the trip has far exceeded my expectations. The most rewarding, by far, is the impact we are leaving on the 53 orphans. I could not be more proud of the Airmen, non-commissioned officers and Latvian engineers that made this happen, however I'm always quick to brag on family."