The Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi) has awarded its service cross to two members of its Polish counterpart, the Siły Powietrzne, recognizing their seventh participation in the annual Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) large-scale exercise, Spring Storm, currently taking place, while Poland's defense attaché in Estonia responded in kind, decorating the Õhuvägi's commander.
Commander of the Air Force Brig. Gen. Rauno Sirk said that: "Poland was one of the first countries to respond to these events quickly," noting that the country's military was already taking part in Spring Storm that year, while cooperation and links have only grown since then.
At a ceremony taking place at Ämari air base Tuesday, Sirk presented the Õhuvägi's Service Cross, 3rd class, to Lt. Col Grzegorz Pirog, commander of Poland's SU-22 squadron, and to Lt. Col Andrzej Turski, also taking part in Spring storm for the seventh time.
Polish defense attaché, Col. Andrzej Dylong, in return presented Brig. Gen. Sirk, the Polish Army Medal, 2nd Class, together with Capt. Aliis Grabbi of the Õhuvägi, the Polish Army Medal, 3rd Class, while the pair were also congratulated by Poland's ambassador to Estonia, Grzegorz Kozlowski.
Brig. Gen. Sirk called to mind the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which not only sparked the strengthening security-based cooperation between Estonia and Poland but also led directly to the creation of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission based at Ämari, whose role Poland's air force held in 2020 with its U.S.-made F-15 Eagles.
The SU-22 squadron is one of only two foreign nations – the other being the U.S. - whose air forces have been engaged in bombing exercises in Estonian air space, while the squadron's aircraft were on-hand Tuesday in providing air support during Spring Storm maneuvers.
The Õhuvägi is organizationally a part of the EDF rather than being a standalone service.
Editor: Andrew Whyte