The annual Admiral Pitka challenge, a military reconnaissance contest organized by the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), is underway, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Thursday, bringing together close to 30 teams and 14 different nationalities across the 120-kilometer course.
Held in Lääne- and Ida-Viru counties this year, the race has been held since 2013 in various locations across Estonia and pits 26, four-person teams against each other, over four days.
This year, more emphasis has been placed on the purely military aspects than before, AK reported.
Lt. Col. Jaanus Ainsalu of the Viru military district (Malev) of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) told AK that: "This year, all the tasks consist of real soldiering skills and actual activities that we would conduct on the battlefield; in other words, we have, in a sense, gone back to our roots and given up on simply running a sports competition."
"To start with, the physical loads and the event's length make it a tough one. Our allies, for example, generally do not march that far - this is a special feature of Estonia, especially in the Defense League, as we consist of light infantry units and our job is to move on foot," Lt. Col. Ainsalu went on.
"Another aspect will be real fire orders, aimed at neutralizing the enemy's long-range fire units. This is the type of work that Ukrainians do every day in [the conflict in] Ukraine," he added.
The event started Wednesday, which also happened to be the 150th anniversary of Johan Pitka's birth, at the 1918-1920 War of Independence monument in Rakvere. And is due to end on Saturday at the Läsna barracks in Lääne-Viru County.
The competition is organized by the Northeast land protection district (Viru , Alutaguse and Jõgeva defense districts) in cooperation with Defense League general staff.
The Defense League is distinct from the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), though teams from the latter, as well as those from NATO allies such as those based at Tapa, are taking part.
Estonian teams have dominated the results in the past decade since the event was inaugurated, with only the Finns getting a look in so far.
Last year's event was held on Saaremaa and was won by a four-man team from the Kuperjanov Battalion of the EDF's 2nd Infantry Brigade, followed by the EDF's 2nd Pioneer Battalion and the Pärnu district Defense League.
The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic.
Admiral Johan Pitka (1872-1944) commanded the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) during the War of Independence.
The original AK segment (in Estonian) is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael