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Ambassador Praises Maryland Guard Efforts in Bosnia

U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Charles English shakes hands with the Lt. Col. John McVicker, commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Civil Engineer Squadron during a visit to the Vuk Karadzic primary school in Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina July 24, 2008. The school was in the process of being renovated by members of the Maryland National Guard as part of a humanitarian civic action project under the auspices of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David D. Speicher)

U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina Charles English shakes hands with the Lt. Col. John McVicker, commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Civil Engineer Squadron during a visit to the Vuk Karadzic primary school in Vlasenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina July 24, 2008. The school was in the process of being renovated by members of the Maryland National Guard as part of a humanitarian civic action project under the auspices of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David D. Speicher)

VLASENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- The U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Charles English, today praised Maryland Air National Guard efforts at two construction sites in the former Yugoslav republic.

Seventy-two members of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing are in Bosnia taking part in a civic construction mission under the auspices of the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

"Whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or flooding in Maryland or here in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Maryland Guard always does an incredible job," said Ambassador English, who has served as the U.S. ambassador to Bosnia since 2007.

As the name implies, the program partners U.S. states with foreign governments to establish long term military-to-military contacts to promote interoperability and support democratic institutions. Maryland is currently one of the few states that is partnered with two countries: Bosnia and the Baltic nation of Estonia..

Ambassador English also emphasized the significance of the State Partnership Program.

"I cannot overstate the importance of the contributions of the State Partnership Program between Maryland and Bosnia-Herzegovina," he said. "Each month they enhance their cooperation through sharing professional experiences and exchanges, such as this project."

The current deployment involves renovating the Vuk Karadzic primary school in the town of Vlasenica, located approximately 60 kilometers northeast of Sarajevo, and a memorial to three American diplomats and their French driver who were killed while attempting to cross Mount Igman, near Sarajevo, in 1995. Maryland Air Guard civil engineers are working cooperatively with the Bosnian Army Engineer Battalion during the deployment.

The unit began arriving in Bosnia on July 13, and most members will stay through July 25, when troops from the California Air National Guard will take their place. Approximately 15 of the Maryland engineers will stay on to provide continuity and see the projects through to completion.

The project in Vlasenica involved gutting and renovating a 33,000-square-foot structure, and included renovating the electrical system and installing a smoke detection system, new public address system, back-up power generators, and ceilings. The Maryland engineers also did some minor plumbing and masonry repairs and installed new interior doors and windows.

The Mount Igman project involved improving a 4,500-foot long mountain road, performing erosion control at the memorial site along the road, and masonry and concrete construction.

This is the second major humanitarian assistance deployment the Maryland Air National Guard has conducted to Bosnia under the State Partnership Program. In 2006, the 175th Medical Group deployed to the Srebrenica area of Bosnia, where they provided medical care to more than 2,000 civilians at 14 remote villages.

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