The NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based at Tapa rose to challenges presented by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and maintained its readiness and capabilities, its commanding officers say.
Col. Paul Clayton of the British Army, commander of the eFP, said Monday that: "We undoubtedly rose to the challenge of COVID this year, and kept to our exercise schedule, including cross-border exercises like Furious Axe, in Latvia."
"We completed the integration of the UK-led NATO battlegroup into the Estonian Defense Forces' (EDF) 1st Brigade, thus becoming an integral part of the collective defense of Estonia," Col. Clayton went on, speaking at a press conference.
"This year has seen integration with the EDF become even stronger, while closer cooperation with the Defense League (Kaitseliit) has seen us exercising together even more. All our efforts are aimed towards this task; to provide credible deterrence to any aggression, to be prepared to defend, and to reassure every Estonian that we will fulfill our duties as part of the enhanced Forward Presence across the Baltics and Poland," Col. Clayton continued.
5th Battalion the Rifles (5 Rifles), a mechanized infantry regiment from the British Army, forms the kernel of the eFP at present.
It may be nearly Christmas, but for the eFP Battlegroup in Estonia the work goes on. This weekend we tested readiness as a BG under @Kaitsevagi's 1st Brigade. We're committed to Estonia whatever the weather or season. #NATO #WeAreNATO @ComdUKeFP pic.twitter.com/pgWrgJEIKY— CO 5 RIFLES (@CO_5RIFLES) December 21, 2020
Danish commander: Very valuable experiences
Col. Clayton was joined by his deputy commander and commander of the outgoing Danish contingent, Col. Thomas Fogh.
Col. Fogh said: "I am proud of my Danish men and women here in Estonia, who have worked hard with the EDF 1st Brigade ever since we arrived ,earlier this year."
"The cooperation with U.K. forces, the EDF 1st Brigade, and the Defense League has seen enhanced interoperability and the sharing of tactics, techniques and procedures, plus valuable lessons about the terrain and anti-tank tactics," Col. Fogh added.
"We are leaving in early January, but about 150 Danish soldiers will return early next year to take part in the Spring Storm exercise, and a full Danish contingent will return here in early 2022, pending final approval from the Danish Parliament," he went on.
"There is a lot going on next year, just like there was a high tempo this year despite COVID and I think this should really reassure all Estonians that the NATO forces here are ready and willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with their Estonian counterparts in the collective defense of this country."
At the same time, a small contingent of Danish staff officers will remain at eFP HQ in Tallinn as well as at Tapa, Col. Fogh said.
Outgoing Danish personnel were decorated by defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) on Monday afternoon in a ceremony at Tapa.
The two commanders also looked forward to 2021, which includes a switching of places between the outgoing Danish unit, numbering around 200 personnel, and a new French contingent set to arrive.
Exercise Winter Camp will practice and improve the battlegroup's winter warfare skills, and the group will also train alongside elements of the famous U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, demonstrating NATO cohesion and interoperability.
The annual large-scale Exercise Spring Storm is also set to go ahead in 2021, as it did in 2020 despite coming during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Editor: Andrew Whyte