EDGEWOOD, Md. - The Estonian ambassador to the United States visited the Army Aviation Support Facility here, June 18, to meet with Estonian Air Force pilots training with the Maryland Army National Guard.
Ambassador Marina Kaljurand spoke with the Estonian pilots, Capt. Rene Kallis and Lt. Martin Noorsalu, who have been assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, during their time in Maryland. Kaljurand was briefed on the training the pilots have received, their preparation to deploy to Afghanistan in support of their assigned unit and the future training plans for the pilots while attached to the Maryland Army Guard.
"We've been learning new things that we've never done before," said Kallis. "We're getting more and more experience. ... I think we have enough training for the deployment and we'll get even more in Afghanistan."
The Estonian pilots have been learning to fly UH-60 Black hawk helicopters after completing the qualification course at Fort Rucker, Ala., while also training on the hoist mechanism, water-rescue techniques, and use of night-vision goggles. Kallis explained that the Black hawk is much different than the aircraft they are used to flying in Estonia, but they have been conducting plenty of flying hours to get familiar with the new aircraft.
"We are very proud of them," said Kaljurand. "I'm convinced these two bright, young, brave pilots will be an asset upon their return."
The Estonian pilots are assigned to the Maryland Army Guard as part of the State Partnership Program. The National Guard Bureau's 63-nation, 20-year-old SPP provides unique partnership capacity-building capabilities to combatant commanders and U.S. ambassadors through partnerships between U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia and foreign countries.
The Maryland National Guard has had a partnership with Estonia since 1993 and has another partnership with Bosnia-Herzegovina since 2003.