Kurt Peterson's skills, such as mastering the Russian language and working in military intelligence, have found a new outlet as he has taken on the work of a substitute and alternative education teacher in Mandan.
Peterson, who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 after graduating from the University of Mary with a bachelor's degree in English, said he had no interest in teaching.
"I said no way am I going to teach, and here I am at Mandan," he said.
After enlisting, Peterson garnered attention by how quickly and efficiently he learned the Russian language: He was soon assigned as an intelligence solider to various missions in the Soviet Union and Kazakhstan, Ukraine.
"I consider that the height of my career and power. I was good at Russian," said Peterson.
Peterson's duties were to inspect Soviet Union missiles, interpret Russian military intelligence and to enforce the INF Treaty and the START I Treaty signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
"The Start I Treaty limited the use of nuclear weapons," he said.
The Russian Peterson learned early in his military career would come in handy again when he was assigned as a courier for the U.S. State Department in Moscow. Peterson said the State Department building in Moscow was initially riddled with listening bugs, so the U.S. had to rebuild the building. In 1990, he made 10 700-mile trips inspecting missiles, with his last tour in 1995.
On May 18, Peterson presented a detailed PowerPoint to the students in Ryne Jungling's AP history classes at Mandan High School. Peterson informed the students of his time overseas during the Cold War and Gulf War in the 1980s and ’90s.
Peterson focused on his courier duty between Helsinki and Moscow, Gulf War, Berlin Wall and interpreter/inspector for the INF and START I treaties. His military career included more than 20 missions to the Soviet Union or countries formerly under its power.
Jungling said Peterson has substituted in his AP class for the past three years and shared his experiences as an intelligence soldier.
"It's kind of been a staple to end the year with him coming to present; the kids really enjoy it. They like hearing from him firsthand," Jungling said.
Peterson retired from the Army in 1996 as a staff sergeant. After 12 years of teaching in Standing Rock, he and his wife moved to Mandan and began working in the school system.