The Defense League (Kaitseliit) is evidently capable of delivering an effective sting to any enemy of Estonia, President Alar Karis said, after visiting personnel on the ground in western Estonia, taking part in the snap Exercise Okas.
Okas is primarily a reservist exercise, and this week members of the Defense League, a volunteer force, are also taking part.
The head of state joined the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), the newly-promoted Gen. Martin Herem, in meeting the volunteers from the Defense League's westernmost defense districts (Malevad).
The Pärnu County defense district's commander, Lt. Col. Tõnu Miil, was able to provide an overview of the exercise's progress so far.
President Karis said: "I would like to thank all those soldiers who have come from their daily jobs and activities in order to train, and thus ensure Estonia's national defense. The support of families and employers is equally important here; they also contribute to our security in this way."
"Unfortunately, security is not something taken for granted in Estonia, and every one of of us must think about national defense, the head of state continued, via a press release.
"Territorial defense units have to protect their home area in case of conflict, which is why it is vital to get acquainted with terrain there and practice operations."
"When talking to the participants in the exercise, you can feel that the thorns Defense League's 'spines' are prepared to sting the enemy, and painfully so,"* he went on.
The current Exercise Okas is the first of its kind to focus solely on territorial defense and its readiness, and the initial call-up was sent just hours before it was time to turn-to, Gen. Herem noted.
These personnel were also able to re-test skills already required.
"I believe that these men and women are able to successfully inflict suffering on an opponent," Gen. Herem added.
The initial Okas training exercise saw 830 Defense League personnel take part in both small unit tactical exercises, and more flexible organizational approaches, with the aim of verifying combat readiness and the national defense chain of command, right the way from governmental level, to the ground.
The president added that testing the volunteers' readiness at such short notice was vital, and can also lead to even further improvements in the Defense League's capabilities.
Returning from exercise to home or work just as rapidly as they arrived also brings valuable experience, he added.
"I wish all the reservists and all the Pärnu, Lääne and Saare county defense league members strength and success in this exercise," the president added.
Following the changed security situation and lessons drawn from Ukraine's defense against the Russian invader, the current thinking in Estonia is to have a territorial-based light infantry defensive force at the ready. This will consist both of Defense League personnel and of EDF reservists (mostly ex-conscripts and ex-regular officers). The latter will be vectored to the defense district nearest to where they reside, the rationale being that defense of a region of the country personnel are most familiar with is more effective.
The regular EDF ground troops are centered on two heavy infantry brigades, covering North and South Estonia respectively.
*The head of state was making something of a play on words in the original Estonian; "Okas" means quill, or spine, and as such can be the delivery vector of a painful sting.
Editor: Andrew Whyte