President, Defense Minister visit troops during annual Spring Storm exercise
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso visited Spring Storm, Estonia’s annual large-scale military exercise, on Monday. According to the Minister of Defence, who spent the night with the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion, the high degree of training and high morale he saw on his visit are proof that the country is in good hands with the Estonian military.
"I have met with a great number of conscripts, active military and military reserve members participating in this exercise, and I can personally attest to the skill and high readiness of our nation’s defenders,” said Hanso. “Yesterday’s meetings and the night spent under a tarp sleeping next to conscripts provided me as the defense minister with a clear confirmation that Estonia is well protected.”
The Minister of Defence was briefed at the General Staff of the Defence Forces in Tartu regarding the exercise’s main objectives and activities, after which he visited the 2nd Infantry Brigade control station and the Kuperjanov Battalion logistics center and thereafter spent the night near Võuküla in Põlva County on site together with members of an infantry company within the Kuperjanov Battalion.
On Tuesday, Hanso met with members of allied units participating in Sprin Storm before traveling on to Pärnu County in the country’s west in order to visit the Estonian Defence League’s weeklong military exercise Western Storm, which is occurring simultaneously.
The President visits Spring Storm
The Estonian head of state met with conscripts from the Kalev Battalion, professional servicemen from the Scouts Battalion and allied units from the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania and the US at the Defence Forces Central Training Area on Monday.
“Over the course of ten years, I have seen how our conscripts have become better trained, our officers and NCOs more professional, and our troops’ equipment more and more modern,” said President Ilves.
Likening the exercise to a state examination for the Estonian Defence Forces’ conscripts, Ilves added that “[They] have learned well, and they have had good teachers. I am positive that they will go on to become good reservists, who will keep their skills sharp through reservist training exercises and participation in the Estonian Defence League.”
President Ilves also gave credit to employers being understanding about employees in the reserves being called to participate in training exercises, and stressed the importance of Spring Storm in providing an opportunity for Estonian and allied troops from other NATO states to train together, pointing out that the exercise involved over 5,000 troops from a total of ten allied states.
Many allies had participated in Spring Storm several times before already, and have thus gotten to know local conditions and people, and according to the president, that was precisely how NATO works and practices that for which the alliance was established.
“Our military’s ability to work together with its allies is sure and seamless, which in today’s world crucially strengthens Estonia’s security,” noted Ilves.
The Estonian President was also briefed on the activities of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in cooperation with allied attack aircraft practicing hitting ground targets.
Spring Storm, which is annually one of the biggest military exercises in Estonia, counts as the final exam for Estonian conscripts summoned in July and October of the previous year while also providing practical experience in managing military units for commanders and staff.
This year's 18-day exercise, which is scheduled to be the year's biggest in Estonia and spans Tartu, Põlva, Võru and Valga Counties in South and Southeast Estonia, includes a total of nearly 6,000 troops, of which approximately 1,200 are visiting from Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Finland and Poland.