JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 433rd Airlift Wing participated in a military exchange program and hosted a member from the Estonian Defense Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland from May 29 to June 9.
First Lt. Martii Eerma, a Defense Unit Officer Reservist from the Estonian Defense Force, toured Joint Base San Antonio as part of an exchange program encouraging Reservists to exchange forces to improve NATO interoperability through an official agreement with the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C..
International exchange programs facilitate the exchange of military personnel, knowledge, and experiences between nations, contributing to a more interconnected and cooperative international defense community.
Before Eerma’s arrival here, Lt. Col. Carla Martinez, 433rd Maintenance Group commander, was also involved in the same exchange program. After completing her Estonian immersion, she assisted Eerma with his visit here at Joint Base San Antonio.
“It was a very eye-opening experience to work with partner nations. They gave me a peek behind the curtain as to what they do daily and how they determine the threat there,” Martinez said.
“San Antonio is a very small portion of the U.S., and taking Eerma around the city to learn about the culture was great. He also got to see different pockets of JBSA and met active duty and reserve Airmen. Eerma, a Security Forces officer, was obviously extremely interested in seeing the working dogs,”
“While here, Eerma visited and interacted with all four 433rd Airlift Wing groups: the Operations Group, Maintenance Group, Medical Group, and the 433rd Security Forces Squadron, which falls under the Mission Support Group.
“I’m so amazed at how proud you are of what you (the American military) are doing. It was glorious to see a Basic Military Training graduation and discover everything you offer for military members, like the courses and the training,” Eerma said.
He also had the opportunity to gain experience in how different units train and operate their equipment.
“You have very advanced equipment. It was my first time in a C-5 and flying in the simulator, but I was very impressed with them both,” said Eerma.
During one of his tours of JBSA, he visited the Defense Language Institute English Language Center, or DLIELC. A Department of Defense agency responsible for managing and operating the Defense English Language Program to train international military and civilian personnel to speak and teach English. While there came an unexpected meeting with a person, he served with in Estonia.
“It was a very positive surprise for me to run into someone I used to serve with in Estonia at the Defense Language Institute here," Eerma said. "I was not expecting that at all.”
Eerma finalized his first-ever visit to American soil by touring the greater San Antonio area.
With both a welcome and a farewell, the City of San Antonio’s Chamber of Commerce’s Interim president, Dave Petersen, Lori Stinson, Military Affairs and Leadership Development, members from the 433rd Airlift Wing, and the 433rd Airlift Wing’s Honorary Commanders, came together to toast him and wish Eerma safe travels home.
Eerma recapped his visit by saying, “Everything is big here; all the distances and the trucks here are very large. Also, the area is so vast and busy. I had a good time watching a soccer game, riding bicycles, and swimming with some of the members from the wing. I would definitely like to come back and train with you all.”