Large-scale Utria Assault military navigation exercise underway

Utria Assault, the annual military competition commemorating an action during the 1918-1920 Estonian War of Independence, is underway.

A total of 29 international teams are taking part this year, including those from Latvia, Germany, Canada and Switzerland, as well as three separate teams from the British contingent of the NATO enhanced forward presence (eFP) battlegroup based in Tapa.

The race covers a course of over 100 kilometers, with 16 checkpoints; the race started Thursday night near Jõhvi in eastern Estonia, and is due to finish on Saturday, at Narva-Jõesuu.

This year's competition makes no use of skis due to the unusually warm winter, though drones are permitted, for the first time at the competition.

ERR's Sergei Stepanov caught up with one of the participants, Cpl. Pearson of the British Army's 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 RIFLES), and asked him what he thought of the exercise so far.

"The first day has been a bit of a challenge for the lads obviously, starting late in the night, going on into the early hours of this morning," Cpl. Pearson said.

As to the unseasonably clement weather, Cpl Pearson said that adaptation was key regardless.

"Obviously the weather's been on our side...We got told that by some of the locals and the lads back over in Tapa, that it's one of the warmest January's they've had in a fair few years. Obviously to us it's still cold, but yet getting used to this environment as well – obviously as infantry and part of the army itself, we need to adapt."

"The night was fairly warm, – we've been moving continuously through the night so we've not really stopped and had a chance to gauge how cold it actually is; moving into the early hours we've been keeping warm as we go along."

As to the arduous nature of the exercise, which goes through two nights (Thursday and Friday) and leaves little time for sleep even if the weather is mild for the time of year, Cpl. Pearson pointed out the benefits of the experience as well as the hardships.

"Going through the challenges been put forward by the Estonians, it's been very challenging and somewhat of a sense of achievement in completing the tasks. It's one of the things I've never done before, a patrol competition like this, it's been an eye opener for myself and some of the other lads who have taken part."

"Tomorrow can't come quick enough, though; I think I'm missing my bed now. With the continuous tabbing (load carrying on foot, at pace-ed.), through marshlands etc., moving along river's also something where the finish can't come quick enough," he added.

Utria Assault commemorates an action 101 years ago on January 17 1919, which saw 400 Estonian marines and 600 soldiers from the Finnish volunteer battalion conduct an amphibious landing at Utria, on the northeast Estonian coast between Sillamäe and Narva, which led to the liberation of Narva from the Red Army.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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