Gallery: Estonia's ESTPLA-22 begins patrols in Lebanon (1)
This week, Estonia's ESTPLA-22 infantry platoon began patrolling in Southern Lebanon as a part of the joint Finnish-Irish Battalion serving on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping mission in the region.
"The patrols have gone by successfully thus far and thanks to them we have gotten to know our area of responsibility better," ESTPLA-22 Platoon Commander Lt. Virko Luide said according to a military press release. "It is apparent that the Estonian units to precede us have done good work, as local residents display a positive attitude toward us and are happy to greet and speak with Estonian soldiers."
The Estonian platoon is serving in the Irish-Finnish Battalion's A Company together with members of the Finnish Defence Forces, and their area of responsibility includes a number of bigger and smaller settlements that are home to nearly 30,000 people during the summer season.
Lt. Luide noted that peacekeeping missions differ in their nature and operations from their activities and exercises in Estonia as well as from experiences gained on previous missions. "In being active on the ground here we learn more and more every day, and we are quickly learning nuances and new skills," he said.
ESTPLA-22, which arrived in the country at the end of November, is based at UN Position 2-45 in At Tiri, Southern Lebanon. Among the duties of the Estonian peacekeepers are day- and nighttime patrols along the Blue Line separating Lebanon from Israel.
UN units, including the Estonian platoon, likewise conduct patrols — both motorized and by foot — both by day and at night in their areas of responsibility, man lookout points and fulfill other peacekeeping duties.
Together with staff officers, a total of nearly 40 members of the Estonian Defence Forces are currently serving in Lebanon, of which the majority are made up of a platoon-sized unit consisting primarily of members of the Staff and Support Company of the professional Scouts Battalion.
The Estonian platoon is serving as a part of the Irish-Finnish Battalion, which is the only international battalion serving on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission. A total of 40 countries contribute to UNIFIL; ESTPLA-22 is the fifth Estonian unit to serve in Lebanon.