A large-scale military exercise in western Estonia involving over 2,000 voluntary Defense League (Kaitseliit) personnel, along with 300 NATO soldiers currently based in the country, ended on a high note this weekend, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.
Dubbed Exercise Orkaan ("Hurricane"), heavy equipment was also utilized in training which took in Pärnu and Lääne counties, as well as Estonia's two largest islands, Saaremaa and Hiiumaa.
Saaremaa was the scene of the closing acts, and involved a firing patrol exercise aimed at neutralizing an enemy who had landed on the island with heavy equipment, on the southern end of the island, well as an evacuation exercise to the north.
Arto Reinmaa, head of the Saaremaa Defense District (Malev), said: "The exercise scenario provided for an opponent having invaded our territory, and in order to repel them, we operated via small units and attempted to localize and fight them off."
One participant and Defense League member, Tõnu, acting as one of the evacuees, told AK that: "I gladly came from Sõrve (a peninsula at the southern tip of Saaremaa – ed) due to the exercise. We were very well received and provided with good soup too."
The evacuation point was coordinated by personnel from Naiskodukaitse, the women's arm of the Defense League, with one, Eve Tuisk, telling AK that: "In addition to the evacuation point, we also have women actually out in the forest, so they have been delivering on multiple fronts," adding that motivating volunteers to take part despite the cold had not been difficult.
The scenario involved evacuees mustering at the Mustjala rahvamaja, something akin to a village hall, on the island's north coast, while Sõrve and the south of the island were under attack.
Nonetheless, this year's Orkaan did not involve large explosives, and involved stealth, instaed, with plenty of the activity taking place at night.
British Army Sergeant Matthew Bowler, taking part Orkaan, told AK that: "We did pick up a lot of POWs and we did kill a lot of enemy on the firing patrols as well; so both sides did really well, and we both learned a lot from the experience, so it was good training – and good training value for both sides, for us and the Estonians. It was very enjoyable as well."
Another Defense League member, Sten Auväärt, said: "We were able to do everything – we were highly mobile, able to conduct ambushes day and night, and could also end up as POWs too."
The hostilities aspect of the exercises were over by noon Sunday, AK reported, after which the former "enemies" were able to sup from the same pot of hot soup.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov
Source: Aktuaalne kaamera