AMARI air base - The Michigan Air National Guard has landed in Estonia.
Operating as part of Saber Strike 2012, a multi-national exercise based in Estonia and Latvia, the Michigan ANG has landed KC-135 Stratotanker and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Amari Air Base, Estonia. It is believed to be the first time that A-10s have landed in Estonia.
“We are eager to begin working with our Estonian partners and to build upon the existing partnership between our two nations,“ said Lt. Col. Emmanuel Saridakis, commander of the 107th Fighter Squadron, which flies the A-10s, home-based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. “The capabilities that the A-10 can bring to bear represent an important asset in any operation or exercise.“
The A-10 is a close air support aircraft and will be operating over both Estonia and Latvia as part of the exercise. The KC-135 is an aerial refueling platform. Both aircraft are able to support a variety of types of missions, depending on the needs of local commanders.
Saber Strike 2012 involves approximately 2,000 personnel from eight countries. Saber Strike is part of an ongoing cooperative training effort primarily focused on the three nations of the Baltic States: Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. This exercise prepares participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. In addition to the U.S. Army Europe, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, other participants include: Canada, Finland, France and the UK.
About 150 Michigan ANG personnel, primarily from the 127th Wing at Selfridge, but including some airmen from all four of the principal ANG facilities in Michigan, are on the ground in Estonia – with a few in neighboring Latvia – to support the exercise.
“The cooperation that we have enjoyed with the Estonian Air Force has been outstanding,“ said Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Barriger, one of the senior enlisted members of the Michigan contingent. “This mission is all about building partnerships between our nations and I am seeing that happen right now on the ground as individuals in the different uniforms get to know one another.“
Barriger said that Michigan airmen and Estonian airmen are working directly together, according to their military job classification, known as “Air Force Speciality Code,“ or AFSC, in the U.S. Air Force.
“Our transportation people are working with their transportation people, medical with medical and so on,“ he said. “That’s where the relationships are really built.“
Easing the transition process for the Michigan airmen is the similarity of the Amari base with the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in northern Michigan.
“The facilities here in Amari are excellent,“ Barriger said. “That plus the landscape and climate remind me very much of northern Michigan.“