Support our mission
Aimee Hildenbrand, a sophomore at Taegu American School in South Korea, reaches for the rafters as the school’s Warriors Varsity Cheerleaders Squad demonstrates one of its stunts. The team took second place in the small school co-ed division at the National Cheerleading Association U.S. Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., on April 10.

Aimee Hildenbrand, a sophomore at Taegu American School in South Korea, reaches for the rafters as the school’s Warriors Varsity Cheerleaders Squad demonstrates one of its stunts. The team took second place in the small school co-ed division at the National Cheerleading Association U.S. Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., on April 10. (Galen Putnam / U.S. Army)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — When the Taegu American School cheerleading squad took second place earlier this month at National Cheerleaders Association championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., squad members were ecstatic.

“Absolutely amazing,” senior Andrea Paulson, 18, said of the achievement, which came in the small school co-ed division April 10.

But with that finish and previous victories to their credit, the Warriors squad will spend the next year aiming for first place in the nationals, said co-coach Army Pvt. Julian Saaiman, an administration clerk with the 19th Theater Support Command at Camp Henry in Taegu.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Because if they have the ability to do it, that is definitely where we need to go. There’s no point in not challenging the students in going for the top award.”

The squad took first place in November in the small school category at the Department of Defense Dependents Schools’ Far East Cheerleading Competition at Camp Zama, Japan. And in February, both varsity and junior varsity squads swept the Korean American Interscholastic Activities Conference Cheerleading Competition at Seoul International School. Both squads also took first place in the 2004 KAIAC championship.

But the drive toward first place at Daytona Beach next year will mean some key changes in how the squad trains, Saaiman said.

Until now, its training consisted solely of rehearsing “routines,” cheerleading-specific movements the Taegu squad performs at sports events and cheerleading competitions, Saaiman said.

But Saaiman and co-coach Heather Robinson will take the squad through weeks of varied exercises: swimming, tumbling, stunting, weightlifting and more.

“We’re going to boot up our endurance, flexibility, strength, body tone … we’re going to have a lean, mean cheerleading team coming up this year,” Saaiman said.

“The practices themselves are going to be a lot more rigorous, a lot more physical, a lot more focused, with competition in mind as our motivation, as well as having fun.”

And honing performance movements will get special focus.

“We really need to work on full body performance, all moves and all motions need to be exaggerated to give the full effect, as well as the cleanness and the sharpness of the motions,” said Saaiman.

“They expect to win,” said Robinson. “It’s in their head that they’re going to win. … There is a strong desire to show that our school can compete … against any school, and with cheerleading, we’ve been able to do that. And the kids really pride themselves on that and they want to keep that going.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up