Maryland National Guard and Estonian Defense Forces Celebrate 30 Years of Partnership, with a focus on Cyber

September 20, 2023

The U.S. Maryland National Guard and Estonia celebrate thirty years of State Partnership this year.  During Baltic Blitz, a cyber exercise with Airmen from the Maryland Air National Guard and Estonian Defense Forces, senior leaders from both sides participated in a commemorative ceremony on September 19th at Ämari Air Base.

The partnership between Maryland and Estonia, which began in 1993, was originally designed to strengthen military-to-military ties between the United States and newly re-independent Estonia.  In 1993, the Maryland National Guard was one of the first three states to be partnered with each of the Baltic nations through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.

“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, this partnership is stronger than ever,” said U.S. Ambassador to Estonia George P. Kent at the ceremony on September 19th.  Maryland National Guard Assistant Adjutant General Colonel Andrew William Collins, Estonian Chief of Defense Martin Herem, and Estonian Major General Riho Ühtegi also gave remarks at the ceremony.  The Maryland National Guard band played the U.S. and Estonian anthems.

In 1998, the partnership between the state of Maryland and Estonia expanded beyond military cooperation to encompass a wider range of collaboration. Sister city connections were established between cities in Estonia and Maryland, fostering academic and business relationships.

For the past two weeks, Estonia hosted Baltic Blitz, a trilateral cyber joint exercise.  More than 30 Airmen from the 175th Cyberspace Operation Group participated alongside Estonian and Polish colleagues.  In addition to Airmen from the Maryland Air National Guard, Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers, Estonian Defense Forces, Polish Territorial Defense Forces, and Polish Cyber Command took part in the exercise, which enhanced readiness through key partnerships.

Also this week, Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 175th Infantry Regiment, helped to train about 2,000 Estonian Defense League members in ambush tactics, in another example of the robust partnership.

“After 30 years, the mutually beneficial partnership between Maryland and Estonia has not only made us NATO allies but friends,” said Col. Andrew Collins, commander of the Maryland Army National Guard. “Our Estonian friends know they will never be alone in facing future challenges. United shoulder-to-shoulder, we are stronger and together we will face whatever challenges come our way.”

The U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program links a state’s National Guard, an arm of the Department of Defense, with a partner nation’s military, security forces, and disaster response organizations in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

At the conclusion of these exercises, the Maryland National Guard, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), United States Cyber Command, United States European Command, U.S. Embassy Tallinn, and Estonian Cyber Command will analyze proposals for mutual involvement in six different areas for the coming years. This coordinated planning will continue to strengthen the U.S. and Estonia cyber partnership.

See photos of the 30th ceremony here: