By Army 2nd Lt. Jessica Donnelly
Maryland National Guard
BALTIMORE (9/5/12) – Pilots with the Estonian Air Force, who have been assigned to the Maryland Army National Guard for the past year as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program, deployed from Weide Army Airfield in Edgewood, Md.
Once overseas, Estonian air force Capts. Rene Kallis and Martin Noorsalu will be attached to the Maryland Army Guard’s C Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, a medical evacuation unit that deployed to Afghanistan earlier this year.
“[Our deployment] is a big step for the Estonian Air Force,” said Kallis.
He added, that is it the first of its kind and that hopefully it will pave the way for more Estonian service members to deploy in the future.
The Estonian pilots have been learning to fly UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with the Maryland Army Guard after completing the qualification course at Fort Rucker, Ala. Kallis explained that the Black Hawk is much different than the aircraft they are used to flying in Estonia, which is much smaller, but they have had plenty of flying hours to get familiar with the new aircraft.
“We’re glad that you’ve made it to this point in your training,” said Army Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard. “We can’t wait to have you back.”
When the Estonian pilots return from their deployment, they will continue serving with the Maryland Guard, rotating through various positions to include flying, maintenance and operations.
“It will be a tremendous experience and training for you both,” said Adkins. “We want you to feel like one of our Soldiers because you are our Soldiers. You’ve trained for a year with us, you’re going into combat with us, and when you get back, you will still be flying with us.”
The Maryland Guard has had a partnership with Estonia since 1993 and has another partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina that has been in place since 2003.