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Maryland Air Guard, Estonian Partners Focus on Cyber Defense

  • Published
  • By 1st Sgt. Thaddeus Harrington,
  • 175th Wing

AMARI AIR BASE, Estonia - The Maryland Air National Guard partnered with Estonia’s Cyber Command Sept. 17-20 to host the cybersecurity exercise Baltic Blitz 23. 

About 30 Airmen from the 175th Wing, two Illinois Army National Guard Soldiers, 12 service members from Poland, and 30 Estonians participated in the exercise, which centered around securing simulated rail transportation systems from cyber attacks.

The blue cell team defended a simulated network from attack, while the red cell team attempted to hack into the system and disrupt operations. The white cell monitored the exercise and ensured both groups followed the rules.

The Maryland National Guard and Estonia have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 1993. 

“The first mission I did with the State Partnership Program was called Baltic Jungle. We brought the entire [175th] Wing out here [Estonia] and it was mostly an aviation exercise with a very small cyber portion,” said Maryland Air National Guard Lt. Col. Bob DeLuca, member of the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group and Baltic Blitz exercise director. “This time, it has grown so big that cyber is its [own] exercise.”

Maryland Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Tom Howard of the 175th COG and the red cell said the exercise was important for the Estonians and the Maryland Guard.

“It helps us find better ways to protect our countries, to protect our partnerships, and to protect our corporations and businesses back home,” he said.

Baltic Blitz enabled the participating nations to train together and share best practices in cyber defense. The exercise also strengthened the relationships between the three countries, all NATO members.

“Working with our Estonian partners is absolutely wonderful,” said DeLuca, who has participated in four exercises with Estonia over the past seven years. “They’ve been amazing partners of ours for 30 years at this point. Every single time, there’s exchange on both sides.”

Ämari Air Base is familiar to members of the MDANG. Teams from the 235th Civil Engineer Flight, collaborating with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, have helped enhance Estonian offensive and defensive air force capabilities.