Members of the infantry platoon and national support element who served on the French-led operation Barkhane in Mali for close to four months arrived in Estonia early on Wednesday morning after concluding their deployment. A new unit arrived in Mali on Tuesday.
The rotation of the unit that returned to Estonia began in September and ran until the end of December when the unit handed over its duties to the incoming Estonian contingent, military spokespeople in Tallinn said.
During their service, the personnel in the Estonian contingent took part in 16 patrols in the course of which they traversed over 1,000 kilometers of desert terrain, lava rock plateau, mountainous areas and wetlands. They also manned the observation posts at the base on 18 occasions and the rapid response unit on 16 occasions.
"The infantry platoon's rotation on the foreign operation was busy and the period contained several challenges, which were all tackled successfully and with the professionalism that characterizes Scouts Battalion troops," 2nd Lt. Taavi Tammaru, commander of the BKN-10 Estpla infantry platoon, said after arriving in Estonia.
"We obtained necessary experience and knowledge, which we're taking with us from this foreign operation. We will now return home to our families and next of kin to spend the upcoming holidays with them, after which we will resume our regular work duties," Tammaru added.
Head of the Estonian contingent's national support element, Maj. Janek Tammisto, said that the four months in Mali passed quickly with the element supporting the contingent's activities and tasks. Tammisto thanked his fellow contingent members as well as their relatives and family members at home.
The core of the Estonian contingent in Mali is made up of the infantry platoon BKN-10, whose main tasks are manning the gates and observation posts at the Barkhane base, carrying out rapid response tasks and patrolling in Gao town and its environs.
In addition, the contingent includes a support element made up of specialists in various fields. Cooperation with allied units and the activities of the Estonian contingent are supported and coordinated by the elder of the contingent.
The Estonian troops are stationed at a French base in the city of Gao on the banks of the Niger River.
The aim of the French-led operation Barkhane is to support the fight of five Sahel region states - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad - against terrorist groups. Operation Barkhane was initiated on Aug. 1, 2014.
Main unit of new Estonian contingent arrives in Mali
On Tuesday, the main group of the new Estonian contingent BKN-11 arrived at the Gao military base in Mali, replacing the infantry platoon and the national support element that had served there so far.
The main part of the unit that started its service in Mali is the infantry platoon BKN-11 ESTPLA. In addition to the infantry platoon, the contingent includes a national support element (NSE) made up of specialists and an information officer. Cooperation with allied units and the activities of the Estonian contingent are supported and coordinated by the senior national representative (SNR).
The task of the NSE is to provide logistical support to the contingent in the field of equipment and technology, communications, arms repair, ammunition and medicine.
"I hope that the new contingent's next four months in Mali will be full of challenges and achievements, and that soldiers with previous mission experience will support and mentor their brothers-in-arms serving on their first foreign deployment," said the new Estonian SNR, Maj. Rauno Vahimets.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste