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    173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers clear way for Estonian school playground

    173rd Airborne paratroopers clear way for Estonian school playground

    Courtesy Photo | Sgt. Shawn M. Simmerman, a Brighton, Colo., native and fire team leader for 3rd...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. John Carkeet IV 

    U.S. Army Europe and Africa   

    TALLINN, Estonia –Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade traded their tactical gear for rakes and shovels to turn a small field into a school playground Aug. 16 in Tallinn, Estonia.

    The squad traveled from their base of operations in Paldsiki to join teachers, parents, students and staff members of Jakob Westholmi Gumnaasium to replace the rocky and overgrown ground with topsoil and grass seeds.

    “The American Soldiers were a last minute addition to our group of volunteers,” said Rando Kuustik, school principal of Jakob Westholmi Gumnaasium. “I understand that Soldiers are busy training for combat and keeping the peace. The fact that they volunteered to help shows us that they respect the Estonian people and their communities.”

    Ten paratroopers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade pitched in by pulling weeds and removing rocks. The unit arrived in Estonia several days earlier to conduct combined training missions with its NATO allies throughout eastern Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

    “We are well-trained professionals,” said Spc. Spencer B. Gordon, one of the volunteers from Company B. “We can afford to set aside a little training to improve the community and showing our Estonian hosts how we always get the job done.”

    Delays ensued when thunderstorms forced the volunteers to seek shelter inside the school. The unscheduled breaks permitted the local residents and their foreign guests to learn about each other’s culture.

    “I spent some time in the U.S. in the late ‘90s,” recalled Kuustik. “I remember then that the people there were friendly. It’s good to see these warm personalities again while learning that they [Americans] are just as eager as us to make our community a better place for our children.”

    “All children love to play,” said Gordon, a native of Merritt Island, Florida. “I’m proud knowing that I had something to do with making the students a little more satisfied during recess and gym class.”

    Kuustik hopes that Company B will see the completed playground and sports field before the unit returns to Italy this fall.

    “I cannot thank the Americans enough for their help,” said Kuustik. “I hope they can come here in a few months and see firsthand that their work here is more than a symbolic gesture of friendship. It’s a substantial step toward building a lasting social and cultural bridge.”



    Date Taken: 08.16.2014
    Date Posted: 09.01.2014 12:54
    Story ID: 140894
    Location: TALLINN, EE 
    Hometown: MERRITT ISLAND, FL, US

    Web Views: 320
    Downloads: 0