Rhode Island Air National Guard member first to participate in exchange program with Estonia

By 2nd Lt. Daniel Starr | 143d Airlift Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 3, 2018

QUONSET AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, RI — In a first for the Air National Guard, Rhode Island sent a Rhode Warrior to participate in an international exchange program with Estonia. Lt. Col. Cam Macomber was the first Air National Guardsman to take part in the Military Reserve Exchange Program (MREP) with the Estonian Air Force. 

Part of the program included participating in Estonia’s HEDGEHOG 2018 exercise at Amari Air Base, Estonia. Macomber, the intelligence officer assigned to the Air Staff, Joint Force Headquarters, Rhode Island Air National Guard, trained with and gained knowledge of foreign military forces and their operations. He worked alongside Estonians, Lithuanians, Latvians and British airmen in the air operations center with the Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division. 

“My role during HEDGEHOG was to work alongside the Estonian Air Force’s intelligence team and provide expertise. Additionally, I assessed Estonian intelligence capabilities and offered recommendations for improvement,” said Macomber.

Macomber did not take his opportunity to participate HEDGEHOG 2018 lightly.  His invitation earned him a part in the largest military exercise in Estonia since it gained independence in 1991. More than 13,000 troops from 16 countries participated. The exercise focused on territorial defense against conventional and unconventional threats that could be faced in Eastern Europe. 

“It was interesting to see security threats from a different perspective and see up close how important our partnerships are with our allies,” said Macomber. 

Through the MREP,  Guard and Reserve members train with select foreign allied nations. This program allows guardsmen to enhance their ability to mobilize and deploy outside the continental U.S., foster international relationships and demonstrate continued support to NATO members and their militaries – reinforcing the U.S.’ commitment to its international partners. 

The U.S. and Estonia have an incredibly strong bilateral relationship, and the MREP is a unique, cost-effective way to develop cultural understanding and regional expertise without having to deploy large units. MREP provides noncommissioned officers and officers with a unique opportunity to travel abroad and enhance interoperability with partner nations. 

As part of the exchange program, an Estonian officer who worked with Macomber during HEDGEHOG 2018 will be coming to the U.S. to learn about how the Air National Guard conducts its operations.  

To learn more about the MREP program, visit https://www.usar.army.mil/ExchangeProgram/.