ANNAPOLIS — Governor Martin O'Malley recognized the 20 and 10 year anniversaries of the Maryland National Guard's partnerships with Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with a reception for senior delegations from the two nations May 13, 2013.
The Maryland National Guard established its State Partnership Program with Estonia in 1993 to assist with the Baltic state's transition to an independent nation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2003, the Maryland National Guard began another partnership, this time with Bosnia and Herzegovina, to help stabilize that country following the break-up of Yugoslavia and the ethnic conflict that followed. The program promotes civil and military cooperation to promote peace, stability, prosperity and democratic principles.
During the past two decades, the State Partnership Program enhanced relationships between the United States and these countries through hundreds of military and civilian exchanges. Cooperation spread, over the years, beyond military-to-military exchanges to civilian collaboration. Salisbury University in Maryland and Tartu University in Estonia, for example, established a relationship as a result of the State Partnership Program.
"Over the last 20 years, the Maryland National Guard has been a pioneer in this type of international engagement," said O'Malley. "The organization's success with two state partnerships has been a terrific benefit to not only the state of Maryland, but also to the nation as a whole."
Two pilots from Estonia, Capt. Rene Kallis and Capt. Martin Noorsalu, are serving with the Maryland National Guard on a 3-year tour. They recently returned from Afghanistan with the Maryland Army National Guard's C Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Air Ambulance Company where they flew medical evacuation missions alongside Maryland pilots.
Twenty-six military policemen from the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina deployed last fall to Afghanistan with the Maryland National Guard's 115th Military Police Battalion to support the International Security Assistance Force. These soldiers are fully integrated into the unit and conduct operations with Maryland Guard members.
"The partnership between Maryland and Bosnia and Herzegovina is a classic example of how it works," said Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "We took a country out of war, and we worked together as they went from a consumer of security to a producer of security."
Nationwide, the State Partnership Program currently involves 65 different partner counties and nearly every state and territory in the nation covering Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Some states have two programs. Although many of the partner nations have deployed together, in 2012, Maryland's became the first program ever to have supported two co-deployments with two different partner nations at the same time.
"Over the past 20 years, we have achieved great success through our partnerships while supporting U.S. foreign policy objectives," said Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, the adjutant general of Maryland. "As we look forward to the future, the SPP remains a cost-effective engagement program that produces results beneficial to the United States and our partners."