According to Margus Tsahkna — who signed the directive appointing the Commander of the Estonian Navy — Commander Jüri Saska must steer the Navy out of the crisis of confidence that has resulted from the actions of one ship’s crew.
“Taking into consideration the proposal submitted by the Commander of the Defence Forces and having spoken in depth with Commander Jüri Saska about the future of the Navy, I made the decision to appoint him Commander of the Estonian Navy, as of 1 February,” said Minister of Defence Tsahkna. “The Navy is an organic part of the Defence Forces, which is why the maritime nation of Estonia wants to be proud of, not embarrassed by, its Navy. Mistakes must be learned from and the service organised in such a way that these mistakes are never repeated.”
According to Minister of Defence Tsahkna, the Navy must focus on creating realistic military capabilities, be innovative, prepared for cooperation and use smart solutions.
“The Navy must implement that which has been set forth in the National Defence Development Plan, and develop capabilities which actually exist and which are covered by resources,” said Tsahkna. “The Navy must raise the level of awareness of maritime surveillance. Doing so requires an effort and collaboration with the Police and Border Guard Board. I am waiting for clear progress to be made when it comes to the shared use of the maritime surveillance picture; by the end of this year, agencies must have a common view of the surveillance picture.”
According to Commander Jüri Saska, he senses the great responsibility in having been named to the position of Commander of the Estonian Navy.
“I view the task of bringing order to the Navy, providing a good working environment and building a reputation as a great challenge,” said Commander Saska. What is important is that seamen in the Navy feel pride in themselves, their co-workers and the organisation. There are two prerequisites necessary in order to achieve this: a good internal climate and external support.”
Jüri Saska, who originally hails from Jõgeva County, entered conscript service in 1993, in the Headquarters Motor Pool. After completing conscript service, he went on to graduate from the Royal Swedish Naval Academy and began serving on the EML Sulev.
Commander Jüri Saska has served on nearly all of the Navy's ships and its various headquarters, as well as in the position of staff officer in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania’s joint mine countermeasures group BALTRON. Commander Saska served as commander of the EML Admiral Pitka, the flagship of Estonia's Navy, during the 10 month period in which the EML Admiral Pitka served as the support ship for Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMMG1).
Commander Saska has served in the positions of Commander of the Naval Base, Commander of the Naval Headquarters and Commander of the Naval Flotilla. He is a graduate of Belgium’s Royal Military Academy, the Tallinn University of Applied Sciences, and the U.S. Naval War College. He holds a Master’s level degree in international relations from Salve Regina University, in the United States.
Currently in service with the Navy are the Lindormen-class command and support ship Wambola and three Sandown-class minehunters: Admiral Cowan, Sakala and the Ugandi.
The previous Commander of the Navy, Captain Sten Sepper, stepped down following the discovery, by the Tax and Customs Board, of a large quantity of alcohol and tobacco products without revenue stamps aboard the minehunter Sakala.