GORI, Georgia — For the past month, the hallways of Gori Public School No. 4 were alive with the sounds of construction workers sanding, sawing, tearing down, building up and transforming what looked like a century-old building.
The transformation continued till just hours before the Aug. 31 culminating ceremony, as a team of Air Force and Georgian army engineers worked hard to make their finishing touches.
As the last coat of paint dried, local community members, teachers and students gather in front of the school for the event.
Distinguished visitors from the U.S. Embassy in Georgia and Georgian officials celebrated the completion of the school restoration project, financed by the U.S. European Command and implemented by the Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy to Georgia.
The humanitarian assistance project had a construction materials budget of $40,000 with the goal of supporting national military strategy and enhancing the operational readiness skills of military personnel; all while providing substantial benefits to host country populations.
Capt. Parnaoz Svanidze, a member of Georgia’s land forces, assisted with many aspects including logistics and scheduling of the project, and said one of the main focuses for the project was to renovate the school and attached gym for the children with disabilities because most of the disabled children that live in Gori attend Public School No. 4.
Better access for those children was a top priority throughout the project.
"I'm so grateful to work with Americans again," said Svanidze, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and worked side by side with U.S. Marines for six months in Afghanistan. "I like working with (the Air Force engineers) because they work really hard and know exactly how to do it. I can tell they do it from the heart because they know that everything they've done is for the children and for the future."
During the ceremony, the sounds of the neighborhood school children could be heard throughout the crowd; laughing, giggling and whispering in anticipation. They were excited to see all the new updates to their school.
As the last words were spoken and the crowd dispersed to take the grand tour and a group of children weaved through the crowd and headed straight for the new gym.
"The gym in the school has been used as a safe haven for these kids in the neighborhood for years," said Tech. Sgt. Brendan Allen, the 435th Construction and Training Squadron, and Georgia humanitarian and civic assistance project manager. "When we got here the kids couldn't even play here without pieces of the wall falling down on them; now it's safe."
The gym has been completely redone. The floors and walls were completely remodeled, the basketball backboards replaced, new lighting was installed and a fresh coat of yellow paint for the walls and white for the high ceilings were applied.
"This whole project has been an amazing experience," Allen said. "My guys worked really hard the entire time. I don't want to go, but I know we can leave here knowing we helped the children and we can be proud of our work."
The project is one of about 15 that will be done this year throughout the European and Eurasia regions and has trained military engineers from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force active duty, Reserve, and Guard forces in the past.
The team explained that their time spent in Georgia has been extremely rewarding and has given them an appreciation for hard work.
"It's extremely impressive how hard the Georgian engineers worked," Allen said. "Without their support, we definitely wouldn't have been able to get as much done in that amount of time, and we're extremely thankful for it."