108th Engineers find solutions to complete their humanitarian project in Croatia

  • Published
  • By SSgt Barb Harbison
  • 108th Public Affairs Office
The two commanders met in a small town ready to battle the elements, logistical delays, and troop work conditions with a common goal and a common battle cry, one that every engineer understands - no problems, just solutions.

Lt. Col. Paul Novello, commander of the 108th Civil Engineering Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard and Bojnik (Major) Oliver Švob of the 33rd Engineer Regiment, Croatian Army brought their Airmen and soldiers together on the streets of Gašcinci (Gaa-SHIN-see), Croatia, for two weeks during Adriatic Aurora 2008.

Adriatic Aurora was a field training exercise designed to train and promote the inter-operability of three states - New Jersey, Minnesota and Vermont - and their respective State Partners - Albania, Croatia and Macedonia.

New Jersey sent the 108th CES, along with the Croatian engineers and a small component of Albania engineers, to work on a humanitarian project.

The combined forces of 57 soldiers and Airmen, enlisted and officers, Croatian and American, worked side by side to improve a road to a soccer field outside of town, build a playground next to the town's school and to put a new roof on the village's community center that also houses the town's volunteer fire department and fire truck that is more than 50 years old.

Along the way, projects were added to list and the engineers rose to their "solutions" battle cry. They added a 5 x 20 foot section of concrete by the entrance between the school house and the playground, meaning less mud to track in and out of school on rainy days. The townspeople brought a used metal jungle gym to the site in a wheel barrow and the engineers anchored it in place and painted it red white and blue - colors shared in both Croatia's and America's flags.

While 108th Airmen found differences in this interesting country that has a population half the number of New Jersey but 2 ½ times the land size of their home state, they also saw similarities. Children and elders like to find perches to watch the workers at a building site. Children around the world enjoy games, sliding boards, swings and laughter.

Engineers from both countries found their way to the playground and adjoining soccer area, enjoying the newly installed equipment and fine-tuning their soccer skills against the young opponents from the small town.

The road improvement project was a short one that joined the 108th Airmen with the Albanian engineers, making the road that runs to the local soccer complex easier to transit and better draining.

When the work was complete, the Croatian Minister of Defense, the American ambassador to Croatia, and representatives from the three states, including Brig. Gen. Michael S. Cunniff, came to visit the site, see the engineers' handiwork and see the village children showcase native dances.

As the engineers left the small village, their solutions gave the community a few improvements and gave everyone insights into their different worlds.