On Monday, 18 June, Estonian Ambassador to the United States Marin Kaljurand and other embassy workers visited the Maryland Air National Guard support centre in Bel Air, Maryland, where they met with the two Estonian air force pilots who are currently training there, Captain Rene Kallis and Lieutenant Martin Noorsalu.
Chief of Staff of the Maryland National Guard Sean M. Casey gave an overview of the pilots’ training and the mission awaiting them in Afghanistan. Colonel Casey recognised Estonia’s participation in the programme and its readiness to serve together with Americans in Afghanistan. He stated that the training of the Estonian air force helicopter pilots is a good example of the practical outcome of one of the Maryland National Guard’s partnership programmes, and it could even be seen as blazing a trail for analogous co-operation with other partner countries. Captain Rene Kallis and Lieutenant Martin Noorsalu confirmed that they are very satisfied with their training and prepared to implement their new knowledge and skills in Afghanistan.
Captain Rene Kallis and Lieutenant Martin Noorsalu, who began the training programme in the summer of 2011 within the framework of the co-operation agreement between the National Guard of the state of Maryland in the USA and the Estonian Defence Forces, will soon depart on a half-year mission with the medical evacuation helicopter unit of the USA brigade to Helmand Province in Afghanistan with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Before going to Afghanistan, the pilots will receive their final pre-mission training at Fort Benning Army Base in Georgia. This is the first time after Estonia regained its independence that Estonian air force pilots are participating in an international military operation. Following their mission in Afghanistan, Captain Kallis and Lieutenant Noorsalu will continue serving with the Maryland National Guard as staff officers and instructors until the middle of 2014, after which they will return to Estonia to share their experiences with the Estonian Defence Forces.
Co-operation between the Estonian Defence Forces and the Maryland National Guard got its start in the beginning of the 1990s. The Maryland National Guard has made a significant contribution to building up the Estonian Defence Forces.
Embassy of Estonia in the USA
(1 202) 588 0101
Information on the pilots’ future service:
Head of press department, Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces
+372 51 79 326
+372 637 7654