CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Nearly 100 students from the municipality of Ferizaj/Urosevac, Kosovo, joined approximately 25 Soldiers from Multinational Battle Group East for a visit to Camp Bondsteel, Oct. 30.
The visit was organized by members of MNBG E’s aviation component, Task Force Griffin, many of whom spend several hours each week teaching English to the children at a youth center in Ferizaj/Urosevac. The visit was intended to give the youths a unique opportunity to experience something new and different to them.
“We wanted to show the kids how we live and also give them a chance to see some things that they don’t normally get to see,” said Master Sgt. Terry Martin, Cabot, Ark., the noncommissioned officer in charge of operations for Task Force Griffin, and a member of the Arkansas National Guard.
The day began with a tour of Task Force Griffin’s facilities, where the Soldiers showed the young locals their helicopters and equipment, and gave them a chance to pose for pictures with the Soldiers and their helicopters.
Following the tour, the Soldiers escorted the students to the Camp Bondsteel movie theater, where the children experienced something that was new to many of them.
“I’ve talked to these kids when we’re out teaching them and most of them have never been to a real movie theater,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Hendricks, Nevada, Iowa, a pilot with C Company, 2-147th Aviation Battalion, Task Force Griffin, and a member of the Iowa National Guard. “They said there’s one in [Pristina/Prishtine], but they don’t get to go there, so we wanted to show them this one.”
“I really enjoyed the movie,” said Elira Tahiri, one of the local students. “We don’t have any cinemas around here. My mom said there was one in Ferizaj [Urosevac] when she was younger, but it’s a store now, so this was nice.”
After the movie, the Soldiers gave the students a tour of the Camp Bondsteel shopping area and introduced them to another new experience: a haunted house. The haunted house was set up in one of the Morale Welfare and Recreation buildings and was designed and run by other Soldiers and members of MNBG E.
“Most of these kids have never seen a haunted house or anything like this, so that’s another thing we wanted to show them,” Martin said.
“[The haunted house] was like a movie,” said Ssara Kajalli, another local student from Ferizaj/Urosevac. “We just watched the scary movie and I kept thinking it was real. People were [reaching out at us]. It was fun. This was the best day of my life.”
The students joined their Soldier escorts for a meal at the base dining facility before loading onto buses and heading back to Ferizaj/Urosevac with a new set of experiences fresh in their young minds.
“This was so much fun,” Kajalli said as she climbed onto the bus. “I don’t want to leave.”
Many of the Soldiers had similarly positive sentiments as the buses pulled away.
“This was a great time,” said Capt. Pat May, Ward, Ark., planning officer for Task Force Griffin, and a member of the Arkansas National Guard. “I think the kids really enjoyed themselves. I’m glad we did this.”