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Royal Welsh Battlegroup conducts final exercise in Estonia

British Army Warrior armored vehicle during Exercise Dragon Charge.
British Army Warrior armored vehicle during Exercise Dragon Charge. Source: UK Ministry of Defence

A British Army regiment serving in Estonia saw its six-month tour culminate in a large-scale, force-on-force exercise, involving over NATO 800 personnel and spanning four days.

Dubbed Exercise Dragon Charge, 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh, lead unit in the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, based at Tapa, were joined by French and Danish troops, as well as personnel from other British Army units, in the exercise, aimed at reaffirming interoperability and agility.

Commanding Officer Lt Col Edward Willcox said of Exercise Dragon Charge that: "It was an important week to bring our partners together under the leadership of the Royal Welsh, one final time as the eFP, to level-up the already extensive training that has taken place during this tour."

"Nothing can replace the experience of operating alongside one another; it both demonstrates the capability of the eFP and creates bonds between teams, units and nations that will last long into the future." Lt Col Willcox continued, via an eFP press release.

Exercise Dragon Charge permitted the Royal Welsh Battlegroup a final occasion to put into practice a total of 10 months' worth of overseas training, time in which their tactics, techniques and procedures had been finely honed through the many individual unit exercises, cross-exposure to peers, and cultural engagement activity, all of which enriches the human component of interoperability, the eFP says.

That interoperability also involved French Army company Les Loups and the Danish Army's Viking company, and also provided a chance to ensure cohesion with the recently deployed, additional British Army battlegroup to have arrived in Estonia, the Agile Task Force, 2 Rifles Battlegroup.

Across the four-day exercise, the battlegroup conducted training serials in urban warfare, assault breaching and night operations, with the focus on learning lessons from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

It put to the test the soldiers' and officers' communication skills, technical competencies, risk management, while, crucially, it connected them once again with the now-familiar Estonian terrain, in the interests of Estonian and European defense and security, the eFP says.

Kit involved included Challenger main battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, anti-tank assets and engineering capabilities, working together with light infantry and other personnel.

The exercise was also aligned with Op Mobilise, a British Army combined arms maneuver warfare training and development program, ordered by Gen. Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the General Staff.

Gen. Sanders has said that: "Mobilizing the army to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win alongside our NATO allies and partners" is one of Op Mobilise's key objectives.

As per the custom since the eFP first became reality in early 2017, the Estonian Minister of Defense presented the Royal Welsh, along with Danish soldiers, with mission medals in recognition of their tour.

The minister, Hanno Pevkur (Reform), said: "As soldiers, you know what fighting and conflict means. You know what it means to risk your lives to protect loved ones, family, friends and your country. 

"Not far from Estonia, our Ukrainian friends and brothers-in-arms are waging a war, daily, against an invader who wants to take away their country's freedom," Pevkur added, according to a defense ministry press release.

The minister mentioned cooperation with the Estonian Defense Forces in the large-scale Exercise Siil, which took place in early summer, as one of the highlights of the tour, adding that the eFP is an effective deterrent in reminding the Russian Federation that an attack on Estonia would represent an attack on the whole of NATO.

The Royal Welsh is the most decorated Welsh regiment in the British Army and the most experienced armored infantry regiment in the UK, and has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on operational deployments to Kenya, and Ukraine. It is two battalions-strong; in 2014 the 2nd Battalion was folded into the 1st, a heavy infantry battalion, while 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh is a reservist, light infantry unit. As its name suggests, the regiment recruits primarily from all over Wales.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: NATO eFP, Estonian Ministry of Defense

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