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Tennessee National Guard participates in Bulgarian school renovation

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kendra M. Owenby
  • 134 ARW Public Affairs
Airmen from the 164th Airlift Wing, 118th Wing and 134th Air Refueling Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard, and Soldiers from the 194th Engineer Brigade, Tennessee Army National Guard, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the village of Kabile, Bulgaria, August 24.

The ceremony was held to celebrate the "grand re-opening" of the Izvorche Kindergarten School. Airmen, Soldiers and Bulgarian Soldiers helped to remodel the school and playground while on deployment to nearby Novo Selo Training Area for annual training.

Several members of Tennessee National Guard leadership were in attendance for the ceremony.

Brig. Gen. Donald Johnson, Assistant Adjutant Gen. (Air) Tennessee, and Brig. Gen. Tommy Baker, Assistant Adjutant Gen. (Army) Tennessee, were present to celebrate the milestone and show support for Tennessee's state partner Bulgaria.

"Thank you for allowing us to be a part of this great event," said Johnson during the ceremony's opening remarks. "I know this took a lot of coordination on a lot of peoples' parts but we are grateful to be able to do our part for the future of the children of this great community of Kabile."

In attendance for the ceremony was the Mayor of Kabile Village, Georgi Dinev; the Mayor of the Tundzha Municipality, Georgi Georgiev; the Yambol Regional Governor, Dimitar Ivanov; Senior Defense Official, U.S. Embassy Sofia, Col. Jamie Crowhurst; Office of Defense Cooperation Chief, U.S. Embassy Sofia, Lt. Col. Jay Smith; the 164th Mission Support Group Commander, Col. Andy Trautman; and the State Partnership Program Director, Lt. Col. Michael Nave.  Local media outlets were also on hand to cover the event.

Milena Paskova, kindergarten director, spoke with gratitude to the service members.

"My speech is going to be short," she said. "I am going to say thank you to everyone who has been a part of this project and for everything that you have done in this municipality. Again, Thank You!"

A traditional "copper pot" ritual was performed, in which water was poured from a copper pot onto the threshold of the building to bring good luck.

The children, dressed in traditional Bulgarian attire, performed songs and danced for the crowd. Guests were also invited to tour the school. A reception was held afterwards with food and drinks.

The Airmen, Soldiers, and Bulgarian Army Soldiers, spent three weeks renovating the school as part of a Humanitarian Civic Assistance project. Inside, they installed new tile and laminate flooring, built walls and primed and painted them, installed new electrical wiring and lighting, new plumbing and new toilets. Outside, the Airmen and Soldiers cleared away brush and briars to reveal hidden playground equipment and park benches that had been overgrown for some time. They cleaned, repaired and gave a fresh coat of paint to the equipment and benches and realigned paver stones to allow for a smoother playground surface for the children.

"It has been a real treat for me to get out of the office and work with our folks," said Chief Master Sgt. Shantel Bolton, 164th Civil Engineer Squadron. "There has been a lot of hard work and sweat on this project, but it has all been worth it."

The project was made possible by Humanitarian Civic Assistance and the National Guard State Partnership Program, a program put in place to foster national stability within the NATO framework and enrich culture and language proficiency. Tennessee and Bulgaria have been partners since the program was established in 1993.