Sgt. Maj. of the Estonian Defense Forces Visits the MDDF

Sgt. Maj. Saliste Visits the MDDF.jpg
On Thursday, October 11, 2018, the Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) hosted Sgt. Maj. Siim Saliste of the Estonian Defense Forces (Estonian Army) at Camp Fretterd Military Reservation in Reisterstown, Maryland for a unit briefing.  Since 1993, the Maryland National Guard (MDNG) has had a relationship with the Estonian Land Forces under the U.S. Department of Defense’s State Partner Program.  This initiative partners state National Guards with the militaries of allied nations around the world.  Sgt. Maj. Saliste is the senior enlisted leader of the Estonian Defense Forces and was visiting Maryland as part of the partnership program.

Sgt. Maj. Saliste was escorted by Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas B. Beyard, the senior enlisted leader of the Maryland National Guard.  To kick off the briefing, Command Sgt. Maj. (MDDF) Guy Johnson gave a thorough presentation on the militia history of Maryland and the MDDF history from 1917 to present day.  He also discussed MDDF missions including support for the ChalleNGe Academy, 70th Regiment, 29th Military Police Company, Joint Force Headquarters and the Joint Staff.

Next Lt. Col. (MDDF) Jason Tatom provided an overview of the MDDF Operations Unit.  He explained that the “unit tracks all of the skillsets of the MDDF volunteers and also tracks the location and activities of individual state soldiers who are on orders.”  In addition, Lt. Col. (MDDF) Tatum gave a succinct overview of the MDDF’s full integration into the Operation Vigilant Guard exercise which occurred May 7 through May 10 of this year.  The exercise simulated a category 2 hurricane making landfall in Maryland which “stressed” the Maryland National Guard and its local partners.  The exercise included the MDDF 121st Engineer Regiment performing damage assessments, the MDDF 10th Medical Regiment performing medical triage and the MDDF Cyber Defense Unit preparing and defending a 9-1-1 Call Center for the simulation.

This presentation was followed by Capt. (MDDF) Corey Regelin who provided a Cyber Defense Unit overview.  Next, Maj. (MDDF) Mark Schroeder provided an update on the MDDF Plans & Training Unit.  “Our work focuses on two objectives, mission readiness and soldier readiness,” explained Maj. (MDDF) Schroeder.  His presentation was complemented by Sgt. 1st Class (MDDF) Matthew B. Markle who walked everyone through the MDDF Initial Entry Training (IET) process.  “With IET, MDDF recruits get an introduction to MDDF history, our mission and organization.  In addition they learn about military customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony, rank structure, ethics and uniform care,” Sgt. 1st Class (MDDF) Markle shared.  “It’s a great program because it focuses everyone coming into the MDDF onto the same page as they start their service career with us,” Markle concluded.

Sgt. Maj. Saliste was also given a tour of the MDDF Tactical Operations Center during his visit.  “We wanted to ensure that he had a full understanding of our mission to support the Maryland National Guard and our role within the Maryland Military Department,” explained Command Sgt. Maj. (MDDF) Guy Johnson of the MDDF.  “We also emphasized our ability to provide support for civilian authorities if necessary.  He came away from the briefing thoroughly impressed and provided all of the NCOs (non-commissioned officers) with his special coin,” Johnson continued.

Sgt. Maj. Siim Saliste is a native of Kose Estonia and joined the Estonian Defense Forces in 1994.  He has served in a variety of units and has held numerous positions including rifleman, machine gunner, anti-tank gunner, squad and section commander, platoon sergeant and instructor.  He has also served as operations non-commissioned officer, battalion command sergeant major and training NCO.  During his career, Sgt. Maj. Saliste has trained with the British Royal Marines, the German Army, the French Mountain Unit, the Danish Prince Henrys Live Regiment, the Swedish Infantry, the Dutch Royal Marines, the Polish Infantry, the Latvian and Lithuanian Armed Forces, the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines.  His decorations include the Estonian Defense Forces Distinguished Service Medal and the Estonian Army Silver Cross of Merit.

“The visit by Sgt. Maj. Saliste was important because it helps to strengthen the ties between the Estonian Defense Forces and the Maryland Military Department.  We have the opportunity to learn from each other and share best practices.  This supports our domestic missions,” commented Brig. Gen. (MDDF) Lorenza Cooper, commanding general of the MDDF.  “The visit of Sgt. Maj. Saliste follows the MDDF’s Annual Muster which featured Maj. Gen. Meelis Kiili, commander of the Estonian Defense League as the guest speaker.  That was the first time that the MDDF has had a foreign military officer as its guest speaker for the Annual Muster.  We are excited for the future and hope to continue to grow this important partnership,” concluded Brig. Gen. (MDDF) Cooper.

The Maryland Defense Force (MDDF) is the State’s uniformed volunteer militia unit providing competent, supplementary, professional and technical support and soldiers to the Maryland Military Department and the State of Maryland as needed. Established in 1917, the MDDF consists of nearly 200 personnel who perform legal, engineering, finance, medical, chaplain, field support and ceremonial services for the State of Maryland. For more information:​

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