Equipment from a national hair salon in Hudson, Wisconsin is on its way to Nicaragua to teach cosmetology skills to men and women there, providing an opportunity to earn a dignified income. And the Wisconsin Army National Guard lent a hand in the effort.
Three Soldiers from Company H, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion of the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team hauled chairs and hairstyling stations in a Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV), Humvee and two trailers to the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas warehouse in Stevens Point, Wisconsin Aug. 6.
While the Wisconsin National Guard has worked with Nicaragua in an official capacity before — it has had a state partnership program with Nicaragua since 2004 — the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners is a private, non-government organization that incorporated in 1965 in response to President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress program to improve cooperation in the western hemisphere. The Wisconsin National Guard was able to fulfill the need to move the equipment via its state partnership program with Nicaragua.
According to Amy Wiza, Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners executive director, the organization helps “people improve their quality of life in practical, sustainable ways. We do this through projects that serve health, agriculture, personal development and community programs.”
The partnership operates more than 50 learning centers in Nicaragua, and hair care is one of the vocations taught there as it is a marketable skill. Wisconsin had sent four beauty chairs earlier, but many more were needed to meet the demand. And while moving salon equipment wasn’t typical for a unit that traditionally hauls and delivers military supplies and other equipment on the battlefield, it mirrored the sort of mission a forward support company might have in a combat zone while performing the Guard’s federal mission or here at home during an emergency.
“Without the support from the National Guard, we may have had to decline [the Hudson salon’s] generous offer of the salon equipment due to the distance from the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners warehouse, and the large quantity of items being donated,” Wiza said.
Sgt. Randy Marg, a training noncommissioned officer with Company H who helped transport the salon equipment, said this mission fits in with the recruiting message of the National Guard helping the local community.
“When I heard we were going to be doing this mission, I felt really good about it,” he said. “I felt it was something that shines a good light on the National Guard. On a larger level, helping out the people in Nicaragua, if this comes up again I hope I’m part of it again.”
Spc. Heather Lahr, the unit ammunition noncommissioned officer for Company H, also helped with moving the salon equipment. Prior to that, she had no knowledge of the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners organization or their mission.
“Being called for this mission gave me a sense of pride,” she said. “Knowing that I was able to help the people of Nicaragua improve their quality of life is amazing, and makes me very proud to be with this organization.”
Sgt. Branden Bathke, Company H supply sergeant, also helped transport the salon equipment.
Marg said the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners had up to nine volunteers in Hudson to help load the equipment, and about as many volunteers at the warehouse in Stevens Point to unload and palletize the equipment for shipment to Nicaragua.
While the primary beneficiaries in this particular effort are the people of Nicaragua, Wiza said the reactions from Marg and Lahr reflect what she called “a parallel impact” when volunteers and participants experience the value of helping their fellow man.
“A vital mutual and reciprocal relationship exists, where people come to realize we need each other to achieve the outcomes that will ultimately affect thousands of people,” Wiza said.