RAF Fairford, England — No stranger to Estonia, Lt. Col. Michael Middents recently completed a Bomber Task Force mission to the Baltic region on Aug. 31.
Estonia, located in Europe’s Baltic region, is where Middents completed his officer Intermediate Developmental Education (IDE) at the Baltic Defence College. Middents is the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander currently leading the Bomber Task Force in Europe operating out of RAF Fairford.
By sending its officers to receive military education in allied nations, the United States demonstrates its commitment to its allies, in this case, to Estonia, the Baltic nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Department of Defense encourages its members to complete trainings such as these to bolster not only the professional development of its service members but to also enhance the interoperability between U.S. service members and allied nations and partners.
“Our presence there is huge, it sends a message of solidarity,” Middents said. “It shows that the United States is committed to its Baltic Allies through the college and the networking it provides.”
Middents completed IDE as a major from 2016 to 2017 with 54 other members of the course. This was not his first time in Estonia, however. He previously visited Estonia as an Air Force bomber liaison officer, which seldom happens. Middents said that acceptance in the course is highly competitive — not only within the Air Force, but also within other branches as only up to four officers are picked to attend every year. The course is taught at the Estonian National Defence College in Tartu, Estonia, which was founded in 1919 by the then Commander-In-Chief of the Estonian Armed Forces.
The Baltic Defence College is a joint project run by the three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The course Middents attended prepares students to become joint command and general staff officers as well as trains them in the NATO joint planning process.
Attendees are from countries such as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania,, Canada, Norway, Germany, Ukraine, Serbia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to name a few. As an English-based course, Middents said that he found it easy to communicate while others used English as a second or even third language. Middents gained credibility with Russian-speaking students by being able to contribute to the conversation in Russian.
“The Baltic nations joined NATO in 2004 and since then our joint exercises have enhanced the allied relationship and interoperability,” said Middents.
Middents was able to apply his knowledge of the Baltics to the current BTF rotation.
Belgium, the Netherlands, and the U.K. conducted training with Middents’ flight while other aircraft from Italy integrated separately for a flyover of Riga, Latvia. The task force deployed to RAF Fairford is the latest demonstration of the agile ability of the United States to generate its assets in other countries and provide bomber support to any number of NATO allies while sending a clear message of deterrence to any adversary.
“The focus and unique part of this mission [Baltic Leg] was that we were going out there to train with the interceptor capabilities of the allies in the area,” said Middents. “We trained with Italian Eurofighter Typhoons out of Siauliai Airfield in Lithuania supporting the Baltic Air Policing mission.”
Baltic Air Policing is a regional security mission in which NATO nation air forces rotate out of airfields in Lithuania and Estonia to enforce the Baltic nations’ sovereign airspace.
Continuing coverage of this deployment will be available on the DVIDS hub at: https://www.dividshub.net/feature/bombertaskforceeurope.