Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) personnel serving in Mali celebrated Estonian Independence Day on Monday with a festivities, including a quiz about Estonia.
Their commanding officer also thanked friends and families at home for their continued support in an operation which sees an Estonian platoon stationed in the northeastern city of Gao as part of the French-led counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane.
"On behalf of the Estonian contingent, I thank our relatives and friends for their unwavering faith," said Maj. Allar Eesmaa, senior commander.
"Your support is necessary and important to wesoldiers," he added.
"I hope everyone both at home and abroad had a spirited independence day, spent with friends as we did with our allies here," Maj. Eesmaa continued.
Monday morning saw Col. Arnaud Guerry, Commander of the French Foreign Legion battalion serving together with the Estonians, deliver new ranks, awarded by the EDF commander Maj. Gen. Martin Herem – himself making a speech in Tallinn.
In the evening, Estonian support element NSE-5 hosted an independece day dinner, which offered A Le Coq beer sent from Estonia, along with food sent by Salvest, an Estonian company.
A quiz on Estonia also took place, with French, British and Danish soldiers serving at the Gao base taking part alongside the Estonians.
More than 1,500 troops are based at Gao. The current EDF platoon, Estpla-34, patrol both on foot and in the Patria Pasi XA-188 EST Finnish-made armored personnel carrier.
The national Support Element NSE-5 provides logistical support to Estpla-34, and both report to their parent commander.
Estpla-34 are on a four-month rotation in Mali and will transfer out in April, to be replaced by the next EDF platoon.
Operation Barkhane aims to support five countries in the Sahel region, namely Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, along with Mali in the fight against extremist groups, illegal immigration, and in pursuit of stability in the region.
Editor: Andrew Whyte