By Pfc. Nicholas VidroAugust 11, 2017
TAPA TRAINING AREA, Estonia -- As British infantrymen secured a defensive perimeter on the ground, the thrum of American A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" planes overhead provided a steady soundtrack for the soldiers' work. In rapid succession, the Warthogs began their descent and were quickly assessed by a maintenance crew before taking off again from the same strip.
This training exercise was one piece of a larger effort by American, British, and Estonian troops as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO mission involving U.S. and European partners in a combined effort to strengthen cooperation and to deter Russian aggression.
Soldiers from the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division and the 175th Wing, Maryland Air National Guard took part in the exercise near Jagala, Estonia on August 10, 2017.
Another portion of the exercise consisted of US CH-47 Chinooks, escorted by US UH-60L Black Hawks, dropping off infantrymen with the British Army's 5th Battalion, "The Rifles," 20th Armored Brigade on their mission to secure a civilian highway. They were able to practice these specific air maneuvers the day before during a separate exercise that seized an objective and acquired a high value target at Saase Training Area, Estonia.
"This is all about air-land integration," explained British Army Lt. Col. Andrew Ridland, commander of the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group. "This exercise comes a week after Vice President Mike Pence visited Estonia and spoke about how Enhanced Forward Presence is the embodiment of NATO in many respects. What we've got today is my soldiers working with American helicopters and planes demonstrating operations with our allies."
This marks the third time the Maryland Air National Guard has successfully participated in this event, thanks to the teamwork between U.S., British, and Estonian forces on the ground. US Army Lt. Col. Spencer Burkhalter, deputy chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation in Tallinn, Estonia, spoke on how the various components worked together to ensure the exercise's success.
"The planning took over six months to make this happen as successfully as in the past," he said. "On the Estonian side there was a lot of ground work to cover. Their military police worked with local police to close this road. On the American side, the A-10 pilots planned the flight mission. In addition to those elements, the British component provided security for the airfield in an assault exercise conducted before landing."
The training exercise didn't just benefit the participants, however. Ridland explained how the exercise also had a positive impact on Estonian citizens' morale. "Here you have many people, families and the like, and for them this is an exciting thing to see," he said. "It's also a reassurance to the public that NATO is here, their country is secure, and they don't need to worry about anything."