September 19, 2023
General Herem, Major General Ühtegi, Colonel Collins, esteemed guests. Tere Päevast. I am pleased to be here today with you to help celebrate 30 years of partnership between Maryland and Estonia.
In many ways, this was a perfect match, going back centuries to early names – both “lands of Mary”: Terra Mariana in Latin was a 13th century precursor to Livonia, and the name lives on in the Estonian state award, the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana. 400 years later in the early 1600s, the colony of Maryland was named in honor of the wife of King Charles I. In the 21st century, both are world renowned for cyber excellence, and Maryland is also home to many Estonian-Americans.
The Maryland and Estonia State Partnership Program is a phenomenal example of what we can accomplish when we collaborate–from cyber to culture, education to defense, and sister cities. In 1993 the state partnership started to strengthen military-to-military ties between the United States and newly independent Estonia. Today, the Maryland National Guard and Estonian Defense League and Defense Forces work side-by-side, learning from each other and strengthening our mutual defense. Starting in 1998, the Maryland-Estonia collaboration expanded, with eight sister city connections established between Estonian and Maryland towns, academic relationships between the universities of Salisbury, Tartu and Talltech, and business partnerships.
Over this past year, the Maryland National Guard has participated in major Estonian-led exercises, including Spring Storm and Baltic Blitz and Ussisonad exercise currently ongoing. The Maryland National Guard Adjutant General Janeen Birckhead, participated in Estonia’s Victory Day this June. Maryland soldiers participated in the grueling Admiral Pitka Recon challenge – one of the longest and most difficult of its kind. The 175th wing of the Maryland National Guard’s Air Force participated in Air Defender 2023.
These are just a few examples of how we support each other. Not to mention the great personal relationships that have been forged over the past 30 years. Congratulations on three decades of partnership, and here’s to many, many more years of friendship, not just deterrence and defense. Aitäh. Thank you.