Sabre Strike 2013 Air Component demonstrates multinational partnership in the Baltics and strengthens state partnership between Maryland and Estonia.

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joseph Winter
  • 175th Wing
The Air Component of Sabre Strike 2013 concluded June 10 as four A-10C, a KC-135 Aircraft and over 100 Maryland and Pennsylvania Air National Guard members departed Amari Air Base, Estonia. The departure signaled the end of two weeks of multinational exercises in the Baltics and a celebration of 20 years of the Maryland National Guard and Estonian Defense Forces State Partnership Program.

"The exercise was an overwhelming success," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott L. Kelly, Commander, 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard. "We had the opportunity to solidify our already strong relationship with the Estonia Army and Air Forces while providing comprehensive training with close air support."

Amari Air Base hosted the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard including four A-10C Aircraft and over 80 personnel and the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pennsylvania Air National Guard including a KC-135 Aircraft and over 20 personnel. Both units led the Air Component of Sabre Strike 2013 which was hosted this year by Lithuania and now in its third year of execution, Sabre Strike involved approximately 2,000 military personnel from 14 nations including, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Poland, Romania, NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast, U.S. Army Europe, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Joint Multinational Training Command, Joint Multinational Simulation Center, Joint Multinational Readiness Center, 5th Signal Command, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the United States Army and Air National Guard, and U.S. Army Cadet Command. Norway and Sweden sent observers.

Maryland Air Guard A-10C aircraft along with French Mirage and Estonian L-39 fighters provided close-air support to those troops on the ground while flying out of Amari, whereas the KC-135 tanker from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard provided aerial refueling support.

This year's exercise also marked twenty years of partnership between Maryland and Estonia, as well as Pennsylvania and Lithuania, as participants in the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

"I was a young Lt. Col. when we started the program," said Maryland Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Adkins. "I've seen a tremendous journey from former republic of the Soviet union to NATO member."

Those relationships have yielded results, as Estonian pilots have deployed alongside Maryland Air National Guardsmen in Afghanistan. That can't be accomplished without those enduring relationships, according to Adkins.

Similarly, Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen have deployed alongside Lithuanian soldiers on four rotations to Afghanistan.

"It's a great occasion," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Zurkowski of the 104th Fighter Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard. "teaching and learning from our Estonian counterparts on what their capabilities are, learning what their air and ground personnel do and how they prepare to engage in conflict establishes a baseline of our joint capabilities and gives all of us an appreciation for the work we do, jointly."

"The support and collaboration of the Estonian Defense Forces, particularly the Estonian Air Force is outstanding," said Kelly. "I am proud to call their personnel not only a strong partner but also lifelong friends. I look forward to continued joint exercises and a sustained and actively engaged commitment with both of our organizations.