US Soldiers Participate in Maidla’s America Week

Photo: U.S. EmbassyU.S. Soldiers from Iron Troop spoke to kids at Maidla School about their work in the U.S. Army, while learning about Estonia and Estonian culture from the school kids and faculty. The visit by 10 U.S. Soldiers kicked off an America Week being held at the school.

As four soldiers grabbed their gear, a group of 20 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders waited with anticipation by the door before heading to Maidla School’s gym building. For about an hour, the group played soccer and learned to play American football. One half of the gym worked on soccer drills and played a game, while the other half learned how to throw a football and then tried to master the rules of the game as they ran around passing the football.  As one boy said after it was over, “It was a lot of fun!”

2Lt. Hernan Vargas said it was fun time for his soldiers, too. “I really like these types of visits because it reminds me of home,” he said. The students learned to about the work the soldiers are doing in Estonia and their cooperation with the Estonian Defense Forces, the different states the soldiers come from, and even got to try on some of the soldier’s gear.

Photo: U.S. Embassy“We got to learn from the students – their dreams and goals,” 2Lt. Vargas explained. “One girl said she wants to be a singer, and it was nice to see the common interests that American kids and Estonian kids have together.”

As an added bonus, he and his soldiers got a fun Estonian cultural experience.

The U.S. Soldiers learned about the Song and Dance Festival, the Estonian film 1944 and more from the students. The staff also made sure the soldiers had some Estonian food, including kiluvõileib and herring, as well as Kalev chocolates.

Of course, the tiniest kids couldn’t have been left out! Two U.S. Soldiers went with staff to visit the kindergarten kids. They played games and got high-fives from several of the toddlers.

Anne-Liisi Laaneste, an English teacher at the school who helped organize the America Week, said it was a wonderful day because the children were really eager to meet the soldiers. “When I asked the students what they expected the most about America Week, more than half told me the soldiers coming in and talking and showing their gear would be the most wonderful thing.”

The visit took place right before the U.S. Soldiers head to Winter Camp for some training.

 As 2LT Vargas explained, training with the Estonians is interesting and they get to share our tactics. “There are things that the Estonians teach us in Arctic warfare and there are things we teach them in our operating procedures. So it’s nice to learn and to develop ourselves as two separate nations, and combine our knowledge to make a more developed army and a stronger partnership.”

Aside from the U.S. Soldiers, the school will have other U.S. visitors this week, including a U.S. Fulbright Scholar and the music group, Laura Coretese and the Dance Cards.