This year's large-scale, three-week military Exercise Spring Storm, while not as reduced in size as 2020's, has still necessarily seen only minimal numbers of reservists (as against conscripts, regular soldiers and NATO allied personnel) take part, due to coronavirus considerations.
Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Indrek Sirel, said: "With this year's exercise, we have restored the normal Spring Storm routine. Last year, the exercise went ahead, but on a far smaller scale."
However, far fewer EDF reservists, a little over 300, are taking part in this year's Spring Storm than in pre-coronavirus times.
The EDF's reserve is made up primarily of former conscripts who have completed their training, and remain on the reserve lists in the ensuing years. Reservists are expected to turn to at intermittent training sessions like Spring Storm, in the normal run of things.
"There are only around a tenth of the number of reservists taking part the spring storm than would normally be the case," Maj. Gen. Sirel continued.
"I very much hope that we can restore normal routine very soon and we can carry out next year's Exercise Siil, which has a larger reservist component, in full," Sirel went on.
Spring Storm is predominantly aimed at testing conscripts skills as the culmination of their eight- or 11-month period of service, depending on the specialty, but over 3,000 reservists would also take part in normal years, together with regular EDF members and volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) personnel, along with NATO allies.
Since conscripts are largely confined to barracks, the coronavirus risk was adjudicated as being far lower than that for most reservists, who in the weeks leading up to Spring Storm would likely be out-and-about in their regular jobs or tasks on civvy street, and possibly even have traveled outside Estonia in some cases.
Conscription is mandatory in Estonia, though exemptions include those entering higher education, and those with conscientious objections.
The Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi) does not take on conscripts.
This year's Spring Storm as a whole was still twice as large, at 7,500 participants overall, as last year's, which took place during the initial COVID-19 spring wave.
Spring Storm 2021 lasts three weeks, and ends on June 5. Combat training followed by live-firing exercises are taking place this week.
Editor: Andrew Whyte