PALDISKI, Estonia – The sounds of idle High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle engines, sloshing water buckets and barking orders subdued the normally serene parade grounds at Paldiski’s military post. The bustle from washing vehicles and cleaning weapons produced by paratroopers from Troop B, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, led some onlookers to believe that a general officer or political dignitary would drop by for a formal inspection.
They were partially right.
Six members of the Noored Kotkad (Young Eagles), an Estonian paramilitary organization similar to the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, visited paratroopers from Troop B July 10 at its current base of operations in Paldiski. Several members of the Estonian Defense League served as the scouts’ chaperones.
Dimitri V. Lipovski, one of the Estonian Defense League escorts, explained that a casual conversation made this visit possible.
“I use to be a public affairs intern at the United States embassy in Tallinn,” said Lipovski. “I had the opportunity to chat to some of the Army officers stationed there. When I found out that American Soldiers were stationed in Estonia, I had the idea to have the [Young Eagles] meet them.”
Upon receiving word of the visit, Troop B initiated plans to establish a series of interactive displays showcasing the unit’s speed, firepower and versatility.
“The kids got to sit in the Humvees, wear our FLCs [Fighting Load Carriers] and hold our weapons,” said Pvt. Zachariah L. McClanahan, a combat medic assigned to Troop B. “Even though this equipment is nonchalant to us, what we showed was new and overwhelming to them.”
Due to their size and prominence, the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mark 19 grenade launcher, the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile launcher immediately seized the Young Eagles’ attention. An M997 Humvee emblazoned with the Red Cross symbol later consumed the children’s curiosity as they got a first-hand look into an element of the Army void of scopes, triggers and ammunition.
“With the lack of weapons, we assumed that, being young adolescents, they would just skip over us,” said McClanahan, a native of Bradshaw, West Virginia. Once they got into our medical equipment and saw how useful it was, they were intrigued by it.”
The Young Eagles spent several minutes exploring the ambulance’s interior featuring the latest in combat casualty care. They eventually spilled out of the vehicle to witness McClanahan and his team strap one of the scouts onto a Skedco field litter and drag him across the parking lot to demonstrate the litter’s lightweight and durability in safely transporting a casualty.
“This was the first time these kids and I had seen the American side of combat medical care,” said Lipovski, a Tallinn native. “I found it much more interesting than the guns … I believe the Young Eagles could see how this equipment can serve society and save lives in the civilian sector.”
While the Young Eagles took group photos with the paratroopers, both Estonians and Americans alike reflected on the visit’s long-term impact.
“This was a rare opportunity for the children to meet Americans,” said Lipovski. “They’ll have a bigger interest in joining the military, [and] some might be encouraged to study English, gain U.S. citizenship, or even join the U.S. Army.”
“Regardless what these kids do after today, they will always have a good impression of the United States military,” said McClanahan. “We gave them a good perspective on how welcoming and knowledgeable we are about their community and our jobs.”
McClanahan is one of approximately 600 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade spread across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland participating in Operation Atlantic Resolve.
||TALLINN, 37, EE
||BRADSHAW, WV, US
This work, Where eagles dare: Estonian youth visit American paratroopers, by SGT John Carkeet IV, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.