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CES build partnerships in Bosnia

136th Civil Engineering Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, Bosnian Officials and friends pose in front of the school the unit help renovate along with (right to left) members of the Bosnian military, staff of the Office of Defense Cooperation, Vice-Principal, Mayor, General Puljic, and Principal. (Courtesy photo by 136 CES)

136th Civil Engineering Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, Bosnian Officials and friends pose in front of the school the unit help renovate along with (right to left) members of the Bosnian military, staff of the Office of Defense Cooperation, Vice-Principal, Mayor, General Puljic, and Principal. (Courtesy photo by 136 CES)

NAS FORT WORTH JRB, CARSWELL FIELD, Texas -- Approximately 60 members of the 136 Airlift Wing Civil Engineering Squadron spent almost two weeks in Vareš, Bosnia-Herzegovina, participating in a unique humanitarian mission that drastically influenced the local community, said Master Sgt. Constance Mick, material control supervisor.

The Airmen were tasked with assisting in the total renovation of a school in the community by spear-heading the electrical modifications and repairs needed around the schoolhouse.

Located about an hour outside of Sarajevo, Vareš (pronounced vah-resh) is a town still suffering under the effects of the Bosnian war, said Mick.

"We had to keep in mind that these people lost loved ones in that war - and that we were a part of that," she explained.

"Perhaps even more importantly then the school renovation, the project provided much needed political and social support to a town whose leaders truly want to heal and to move forward from the devastation of the war which has wreaked havoc on the community and the nation," said Maj. Michael Cook, a CES bio-environmental engineer.

"The community was extremely gracious and welcoming towards us," said Mick.

The Airmen slept in the school gymnasium and various school offices, and ate at the locally owned "mom and pop" restaurants just outside the school grounds, giving them the chance to really get to know the community and the people they were serving, she continued.

In keeping with the mission motto, "working together hand in hand," Senior Airman Justin Lansden painted a large mural on a school wall depicting the location of the Wing in relation to Vareš and writing the motto in both English and Serbian.

"From my perspective," said Lt. Col. Frederick Olison, 136 Civil Engineering commander, "CE does a lot of different things and we're good at all of them. Deployments are of course very important , but it's the humanitarian missions that give a real sense of satisfaction and the greater feeling of being able to help others."

"We pride ourselves on understanding that it's more than just the work we do that we are responsible for - it's also the relationships we build," Olison concluded.

Getting the chance to live, eat, work and even pray with the Vareš community made such an impact on Mick that she says her work there is not even close to complete. Mick is currently organizing a partnership with two large corporations to help provide desperately needed school supplies to the school children in Vareš. She is also working with a local school district to set up a pen-pal program for the school.

"This is just my heart now," she concluded.