LANSING, Mich. – The 3-126th Infantry Regiment of Wyoming Armory, Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosted an Estonian officer during annual training at Camp Grayling July 19-23, 2022, as part of the Military Reserve Exchange Program. Participants in this coordinated international exchange visit fellow NATO militaries to develop interoperability and bring back new processes and tactics to their home countries.
The officer, 1st Lt. Sven Pärand, a company commander in the Estonian Defense League, spent his time in Michigan taking note of the way American Army tactics differ from Estonian methods. From hands-on experiences with mortar live-fire and sniper marksmanship training to observing Army medical practices and touring the Tactical Action Center, Pärand had plenty to process at the end of each day.
“The main point is to see if I can actually take something useful back home,” said Pärand. “I've seen some really cool stuff here. So I know I will definitely be trying to implement that into our training.”
Pärand's visit is one of five reciprocal exchanges the MIARNG has participated in this year.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Joel Parham, scout squad leader from the 3-126th Infantry Regiment, attended the Estonian-led military exercise Hedgehog 2022 in May. Approximately 15,000 conscripts, reservists, active-duty service members, and members of the Estonian Defense League participated in that exercise, as well as allies from 10 countries.
“Some of the benefits specifically for me was seeing a very large exercise with several different countries. More than anything I've seen so far outside of other theaters like Iraq or Afghanistan,” said Parham.
Coincidentally, Pärand has a similar thought about seeing operations within the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in Michigan.
“The amount of space you have here to maneuver is really, really impressive,” said Pärand, “It puts things into perspective of what can be done during training.”
When asked what his favorite part of exercise Hedgehog 2022 was, Parham said: “Definitely working with Estonia. They have quite a bit of interesting history, and they’re quick to make important changes with the military. They have a lot to offer us.”
Sgt. 1st Class Randy Gill, platoon sergeant for the 3-126th Infantry Regiment, enjoyed working with Pärand at the TAC.
“I learned that they can bring a different perspective that is equally as valuable as our perspective,” said Gill. “And a small country that is in a relatively volatile area, with a mindset similar to ours, it was an interesting culture to interact with.”
The United States has sought to build strong relations with the Republic of Estonia ever since diplomacy began between the two nations in 1922. Programs like the MREP offer a way to continue to strengthen the ties between the two nations.
“It's no secret,” said Pärand. “All of our politicians, all of our biggest military leaders, they all have mentioned or said publicly that the U.S. is our biggest and most important ally.”