Ukraine war concentrates minds at conscript training

EDF conscripts' boots on the ground.
EDF conscripts' boots on the ground. Source: Karl Jakob Toplaan

Events in Ukraine have heightened Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) conscripts' awareness of the realities of warfare as something other than an abstract notion, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Wednesday evening.

Col. Tarmo Metsa, Commander of the EDF's 2nd Infantry Brigade, told AK that they: "Had been prepared before the events in Ukraine, meaning that we have action plans for even the smallest of units, and from battalion-level to the entire brigade. In fact, should the threat level rise, we will disassemble those plans and act accordingly. At present, we have not reorganized anything."

Mets said that reports on the conflict had affected the day-to-day of military service in other ways. "From the individual who is more restless today and thinks about plenty of scenarios which might happen, or what would happen the situation all took place in Estonia, to how we understand these lessons today, to what we see on social media or television."

Reporting from Taara, Võru County, where training involving just under 600 conscripts was in progress, AK spoke to one conscript, Kaspar Kaabel, who said: "The situation among conscripts is a bit more tense, and the events are being monitored quite keenly, on a daily basis. That aside, we can see an increase in motivation and that the soldiers want more and can see that the training benefits from the real-life example in Ukraine."

From time to time, conscripts also have to reassure anxious family members.

"At first they were worried, of course, but then things were explained and now they only occasionally ask how the situation is, but otherwise are rather calm," another conscript, Alex Vernik, told AK.

EDF conscripts serve either eight- or 11-month periods of service, depending on what area of the EDF they serve in (the air force, organizationally part of the EDF, does not take on conscripts). Exemptions include those studying at university and those who are conscientious objectors. Upon completion of service, ex-conscripts remain on reserve lists and are liable to attend regular training exercises. The EDF is augmented by the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), whose women's component in particular (Naiskodukaitse) has seen a surge in interest since the conflict started two weeks ago.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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