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Maryland Guard Works With Partners to Improve Estonian Air Base

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers,
  • Maryland Air National Guard

HARJUMAA, Estonia – For the past two years, staff augmentation teams – commonly referred to as S-teams – from the 235th Civil Engineer Flight, along with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have been assisting the United States Air Forces in Europe with projects aimed at building Estonian air force offensive and defensive capabilities.

“Our Estonian partners have been engaged with ongoing projects and have been amazing to work with,” said Maryland Air National Guard Lt. Col. Joseph DiRosario, 235th Civil Engineer Flight staff officer. “They are simply trying to position Estonia to be ready for any challenges moving into the future.”

Airmen from the Maryland Air National Guard regularly work with USAFE to significantly improve the runway and base security and increase military lodging at the Estonian air force base in Harjumaa.

At the request of the Estonian government, which has been partnered with the Maryland National Guard through the State Partnership Program since 1993, Maryland Airmen began working on the lodging support requirements for exercises and potential real-world emergencies. They also assisted with a pavement evaluation of the current runway repair to be ready for fifth-generation fighters and expansion requirements, according to DiRosario.

Also on the future engineering request list is the NATO Security Investment Program, part of an extensive series of security investments planned at various European locations with NATO members and partners.

“What Estonia is trying to accomplish and what they are building will help them be the tip of the spear against any adversaries in their area,” said DiRosario. “They are also trying to ensure that they can accommodate and be a safe bed-down space in the event of any issues with foreign adversaries. Estonia has been more than accommodating in their runway design choices in their efforts to ensure they are a premiere location to host U.S. forces during wartime and peacetime and to help facilitate exercises.”

Recently, a four-person team from the 235th traveled to Estonia in conjunction with the AFCEC to participate in a 70-percent design review of the existing runway rehabilitation, airfield drainage enhancement, and construction of the additional parallel taxiway.

The Maryland Airmen met with the Estonian Center of Defense Investment personnel and provided comprehensive feedback, including design observations, issues, potential risks, and mission impacts of the projects.

“Their hospitality and partnership were nothing short of professional, accommodating, appreciating, welcoming, supportive, and pleasant,” said Maryland Air National Guard Maj. Sam Fares, 235th Civil Engineer Flight staff officer. “They [ECDI] worked tirelessly beyond their normal workflow to meet our needs.”

The Estonian Center of Defense Investment, tasked with relieving the Estonian Defense Forces of non-military duties, including infrastructure, considers the design and construction of Ämari Air Base to be “of national importance” since it is the only military airfield in Estonia.

“The knowledge, recommendations, and suggestions of the experts in the Maryland Air National Guard’s 235th CEF have provided fresh perspectives, technical solution outputs, helped to optimize construction costs, and reflected possible successes and failures based on their own experiences,” said Ms. Kai Mändmets, ECDI project manager. “We are very pleased to collaborate with the 235th CEF and the cooperation so far has been very instructive for us, as we can learn from the best practices of experts in our field.”