POZHERAN, Kosovo -- Members of the 1-144th Maneuver Task Force of the California National Guard have been doing more than keeping the peace on their current NATO mission in Kosovo.
They've been doing a little teaching on the side, and recently, they celebrated the graduation of their English Club at a primary school here.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Torres, Diamond Bar, Calif.; Staff Sgt. Michael Rider, Paso Robles, Calif.; and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Fernando Trevino, Monterey Park, Calif., all with the headquarters of the 1-144th, taught the class to the students. The classes, which they started to help local elementary school children learn the English language, finished late last week, after five weeks of study on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Soldiers have been in Kosovo since October, part of a peacekeeping mission. They are stationed at Camp Bondsteel, headquarters for the U.S.-led Multi-National Task Force-East, one of five NATO areas of responsibility in Kosovo.
The 1-144th , also known as the 1-144th Field Artillery Battalion, is based in the Los Angeles area.
The Pozheran school's principal, Valbona Halimi, described the importance of the English classes for the 20 students who were enrolled.
"The kids are very interested in learning the English language. Besides the school they go to every day, some pay for private lessons in English," Halimi said, "So we have some of the kids that cannot afford that because of money enroll in this club."
Getting the kids to open up right away was a challenge. Torres said.
"Like with any elementary school kids, when they see new faces, they tend to be shy," Torres said, "but as the weeks progressed, they became more open and friendly with us. We tried to make the class fun for them."
Lt. Col. David Brady, Modesto, Calif., the commander of the 1-144th, also attended the graduation and shook hands with each of the children while handing them their diplomas.
"It was a good opportunity for me to be there for the completion of their five weeks of English," Brady said, "and to show that we think it's important. Plus it's just fun to be around kids. They tend to be more carefree and live in the moment. That's refreshing to see."
The children's graduation marked a milestone in their young lives.
"The graduation, I think, really had an impact in their lives," Rider said, "showing that they completed a step in their life."
For years, U.S. KFOR Soldiers have held regular English classes throughout the U.S. area of responsibility in southeastern Kosovo. Because of vast improvements in the educational opportunities for Kosovo students and because of the increased ability of Kosovo schools to provide these classes, U.S. forces soon will begin to step back and let the schools take the lead roles.
"We are seeing the abundant fruits of seeds planted years ago when English classes were first taught by American Soldiers to the children of Kosovo," said Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, MNTF-E commander. "That first generation of students, with their teachers, now is able to step forward and lead these highly popular classes without our help. The graduation ceremony in Pozheran, truly, is a milestone event for the students involved, and also, it is symbolic of the successes I see in schools throughout my sector of responsibility."
Multi-National Task Force - East is a U.S. led task force commanded by Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann. This task force is comprised of nearly 2,200 Soldiers, including Task Force Hellas and Task Force POL/UKR (Polish/Ukraine). The charter mission of MNTF-E is maintaining a Safe and Secure Environment and providing Freedom of Movement for the people in Kosovo.
Please contact the MNTF-E Public Affairs office for media engagements or to follow-up on this information.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16