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NEWS | Sept. 20, 2021

Estonian Ambassador meets with MDNG leadership

By Tech. Sgt. Enjoli Saunders Maryland National Guard

BALTIMORE, Md. – Estonia’s new ambassador met with the Maryland National Guard senior leaders at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, Maryland, Sept. 15. to discuss the nearly 30-year partnership between Maryland and Estonia.

Kristjan Prikk, named ambassador earlier this year, was greeted by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, adjutant general for Maryland, and other leaders of the MDNG before discussing the State Partnership Program and sharing the capabilities of the MDNG.

“Both in terms of duration and substance, the State Partnership Program with Maryland is one of the most important bilateral relationships for Estonian Defence Forces and particularly for Estonian Defence League,” said Prikk, who previously served as Estonian defense ministry secretary general. “It’s been great to witness the way this partnership has matured and grown to cover many areas where knowledge sharing and joint training creates added value.”

Both Maryland Army and Air National Guard representatives provided capabilities briefs from each service.

“[Prikk] has been stationed [in the U.S.] twice before, so he is more familiar with the Maryland National Guard,” said Maj. Harrison Bittenbender, the SPP director for the MDNG. “He is looking for potential new opportunities for how we can partner with Estonia, the State of Maryland, and the Maryland National Guard.”

Col. Vahur Väljamäe, defense attaché for the Republic of Estonia Ministry of Defense, also attended the meeting along with U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, assistant adjutant general and commander of the Maryland Army National Guard, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Adam Flasch, director of the MDNG Joint Staff, and Command Sgt. Maj. Perlisa D. Wilson, senior enlisted leader for the MDNG.

After the briefing, historian Dr. Julie Shively led a tour of the Maryland Museum of Military History, showcasing the beginnings of the MDNG in 1634 through current operations, and highlighted missions and deployments with Estonia.

“Our partnership with Estonia continues to grow and it is mutually beneficial,” said Gowen, who visited Tallinn right before the pandemic. “They are always eager to support, train, and learn from us. We learn just as much from them and we share best practices, especially in cyber.”

The two nations regularly train together to support the small Baltic country’s security goals through military-to-military events and exercises.

The partnership between Estonia and the MDNG was created by the Department of Defense in 1993 when former Soviet Union countries partnered with 13 states and their National Guards initially and have since expanded to more than 80 partnerships worldwide.

“After a great meeting with MDNG leadership in Baltimore, I have great confidence that this partnership will further prosper under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Gowen and his team,” said Prikk.