Three-week Spring Storm military exercise kicks off on Monday

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Spring Storm 2020 preparations. Source: Ardi Hallismaa

On Monday, the Kevadtorm (Spring Storm) military exercise of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) will start, which, similarly to the previous year, will take place over three weeks on a reduced scale and with strict restrictions in order to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus among the participating personnel.

"The aim of Kevadtorm is to complete the training of conscripts and send to reserve as well-trained subdivisions as possible, as in previous years. Last year's Kevadtorm showed that it is possible to achieve training goals at an exercise on a smaller scale. In addition, the fact that we cannot make concessions in training easily, because Estonia must be protected in every situation, including in the conditions of a large-scale viral disease, and if necessary, the defense forces must cope with much more complex tasks," Lt. Col. Erkki Roosnurm, who is the planner of the exercise, said.

During the exercise, which lasts until June 5, the defense forces will check the synchronization of battle plans, cooperation between levels of command and the readiness of units to perform battle tasks. The main training units of the exercise are the battalions and specialist companies of the 1st and 2nd infantry brigades and the Military Police with its subdivision.

The most intense part of the exercise takes place from May 24 to June 5, when the main battles take place within the framework of the defense forces and then the live-fire exercises of battalions within the framework of the brigade in cooperation between the two brigades. The main activities of the exercise take place in central and northern Estonia.

Almost 350 of the participating personnel are reservists, whose participation in the exercise is the most critical in the activities of the defense forces, and upon their arrival, health declarations and rapid testing will be used to ensure the maximum participation of healthy people.

"The defense forces have implemented well-thought-out and effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus and are closely monitoring the health of the participants. The general rules of personal and collective hygiene, such as hand washing, keeping a distance and, if necessary, the use of personal protective equipment, apply above all during the exercise. Preliminary rapid testing and protective masks are used in the staffs to prevent COVID-19 positive people from entering the closed staff area or the subsequent spread of droplet infection indoors. Contacts between the units are also kept to a minimum -- maximum use is made of the defense forces' own training areas and public space is avoided, so that there is no possibility for outside infection to be introduced," chief doctor of the defense forces, Lt. Col. Targo Lusti, said.

Should any participant develop symptoms suggestive of coronavirus during deployment or during the exercise itself, they will be provided with isolation and testing as soon as possible to prevent the spread among personnel.

In total, approximately 7,000 troops from Estonia, the United States, Latvia, Poland, Italy, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom will participate in the exercise.

Units of the Army, Air Force and Navy are taking part in the exercise, while the 1st Infantry Brigade, the 2nd Infantry Brigade, the Support Command, as well as other units of the defense forces and the Kaitseliit (Defense League) volunteer corps are also involved. The exercise will be attended by both the NATO battle group located in Estonia and the allied units arriving here for the duration of the exercise.

Over the course of the three weeks, there will be more equipment and convoys of the defense forces on the roads than usual, which is why the defense forces is hoping for the patience and understanding of fellow road users. Hundreds of units of equipment, including armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks, will take part in the exercise.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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