Estonian service member awarded US Joint Service Commendation Medal for service in Iraq

  • 2024-04-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Last week, Msg. Marko Taluste, concluding his service in Iraq, received the Joint Service Commendation Medal awarded in the name of the US secretary of defense for his exemplary contribution to the international military operation Inherent Resolve.

The medal was presented by Brig. Gen. Michael W. Ecker, commander of the military advisory group of Operation Inherent Resolve. 

"Msg. Taluste brought what is called a force multiplier to the group -- he infuses all members of the international team with his positivity and utmost professionalism, enhancing the unit's effectiveness and strengthening team spirit," Ecker said, adding that all Estonian defense forces personnel have left a very good impression on him.

"The dedication and professionalism displayed by the Estonian defense forces here in Iraq exemplify the best of their nation. These soldiers serve not only in defense but also as outstanding ambassadors for Estonia," he said.

Taluste served as sergeant first class in the military advisory group of Operation Inherent Resolve for ten months, contributing to the planning of multinational unit positions, integrating new personnel, developing infrastructure and standard procedures, and advising the unit commander on strategy and resource planning.

"Taluste is the heart of our group, setting the rhythm and ensuring that the entire team operates successfully. Force protection, battle rhythm, subunit cooperation -- with his proactive actions, he has contributed to all functions of the unit and we will miss his presence," said Col. Thurman McKenzie, deputy commander of the military advisory group, under whom Taluste served in Iraq.

"Expertise characterizes all Estonian defense forces personnel I have encountered here in Iraq, and I am confident that the new sergeant will continue the excellent work," McKenzie added.

This week, Taluste is set to hand over the sergeant duties of the group to Sgt. Maj. Kaido Oim, who has just started his service at the Erbil airbase.

The military advisory group is a core effort unit of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, which contributes to the reconstruction of the Iraqi defense system by advising the local security forces' tactical and operational level staffs and commanders on a daily basis. Additionally, military reforms are being carried out in Northern Iraq, and support is provided to the Kurdish Peshmerga in force creation and capability development. The group includes defense personnel from 13 countries, including three officers and one senior non-commissioned officer from Estonia.

The aim of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve is to advise and support the local security forces until they are able to independently defeat Islamic extremist groups and ensure peace and stability in the country. Islamic extremism poses a security threat in Europe and worldwide. The Estonian defense force contingent has been contributing to the operation since April 2023. The mandate is for up to 110 military personnel to be deployed to the operation. By participating in the operation, Estonia makes a direct contribution to the fight against terrorism and other serious security threats affecting Europe and NATO member states.