The volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) is on an equal footing with the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), President Kersti Kaljulaid says. Evidence of this is the upcoming deployment of Defense League personnel to Iraq, the president noted, on the organization's one-hundred-and-third birthday.
"The Defense League is no longer the EDF's 'elder yet poorer brother', tasked with the easy assignments," the president said.
"The Defense League today demonstrates a first-rate ability to both prepare and manage territorial defense as well as train a very specific mission unit, if needed," she went on, as reported by BNS.
The president noted that the Defense League was not formed 103 years ago through an order from the top, but on the basis of citizens' own free will.
Of the upcoming Iraq deployment, the president said: "Your decision to join this mission has been made of your own free will and readiness to offer your contribution."
"For that reason, I want to thank you not just for the upcoming mission but also for finding the courage and initiative in December to put your work and family life on hold for an entire year. I am very proud of such citizens and members of the Defense League."
Force protection unit Estguard-4, the unit going to Iraq, is Defense League-based, and it was these members, and their families, that the president met with, along with Defense League commander, Brig. Gen. Riho Ühtegi.
Estguard-4 started training for its Iraq mission late last year and will be deployed there to the end of this year. The mission will also provide valuable training and active patrolling and convoy experience
Estonia is in Iraq as part of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), a non-combat training and advisory mission created in October 2018.
The mission includes 500 defense personnel, including instructors, advisers and support staff from NATO as well as its partner states Australia, Finland and Sweden.
The task of the force protection unit is to ensure the security of people serving in the mission, escorting them to objects as well as ensuring the security of objects, BNS reports.
Editor: Andrew Whyte