Sports day at Konstantynow Lodzki middle school
By Capt. Amy Rittberger, 114th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 21, 2016
Konstantynow Lodzki, Poland -- More than 50 members of the South Dakota Air National Guard, alongside members of the 52nd Operations Group Detachment 1, participated in a sports day at Gimnazjum Nr 1 w Konstantynowie Lodzkim, a middle school here, Sept. 16.
The relationship between the Airmen and students began three years ago. Each year students from the school visit Airmen stationed at and deployed to Lask Air Base, and Airmen visit the school to participate in a community service project. This is the first year American sports have been included.
Barbara Zawadzka, head of Gimnazjum Nr 1 Konstantynowie Lodzkim, expressed her appreciation for the relationship that has developed over the past three years.
"We would like to thank you for your contribution. Our cooperation started three years ago, and we are now friends, not partners," said Zawadzka.
The Aviation Detachment maintains a small, permanent presence of Airmen stationed at Lask AB, and relies on the different units that rotate through on deployment to help enhance the relationships in the local community.
"We couldn't do this without the support of [Air National Guard] units like South Dakota," said Lt. Col. Kristofer Padilla, 52nd Operations Group Detachment 1 commander. "The most important thing we can do is advance the relationship between the Polish and American people."
The students, ranging in ages 12 - 15, rotated through different stations to include painting the school fence, playing sports and practicing English with the Airmen.
Capt. Tony Sullivan, 175th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, enjoyed having the opportunity to interact and get to know the students.
"We got to teach the kids how to throw, catch, and play American sports," said Sullivan. "Part of being in the military is enhancing our relationship with other countries; it's great to share our culture with these students, and learn from about theirs as well."
The students were particularly curious about where the 114th FW comes from.
"They've been really interested in where we're from," said Sullivan. "They're really familiar with places like Texas, Calif. and New York. It's been great to explain the Midwest to them."
This was the second community service project for the 114th FW while deployed to Lask AB in support of AvDet 16-4. The wing deployed more than 100 Airmen to support the exercise aimed at strengthening relationships with European allies.