Interest in Defense League's youth organizations continues to grow
Membership of the Defense League's (Kaitseliit) organizations for young people saw a net growth of 230 last year, meaning the two organizations, Kodutütred (girls) and Noored Kotkad (boys) now boast around 8,000 members.
The interest in national defense has grown in the changed security situation and, while national defense studies is an elective topic at some schools, many young people want to take things further.
Kodutütred is the youth equivalent of the women's Naiskodukaitse.
Ave Proos, head of Kodutütred, told ERR that around a thousand youngsters join her organization and Noored Kotkad combined, with as many as 1,363 being accepted for membership last year.
Since members leave once they pass the maximum age limit, however, and also with changes in residence and of school, the net gain is lower than this, but still growing as noted.
Proos (pictured) said: "At some point, usually when our members turn 19, we have to retire them from our organization. So the rate of moving around is pretty large, in both organizations."
Numbers are growing, however, even with little prompting or recruitment, and those that stay on in the organizations can go on to the adult equivalents.
Proos noted since Kaitseliit and Naiskodukaitse had also seen a surge in numbers in the past year, it is inevitable that many of the children of new and existing members will want to follow in their parents' footsteps, and join Noored Kotkad and Kodutütred.
Joosua Soomets, a member of Noored Kotkad, told ERR he had gained more than just some new friends from his activities with the organization.
He has been in the Noored Kotkad, literally "young eagles", for around a year, and Joosua says has no fear of upcoming compulsory military service, due to the already numerous contacts he has with his experiences so far.
Joosua said: "A lot of young people, especially boys, who have to go into military service on a mandatory basis, don't know as much."
"They are afraid of it being a scary experience, and do not want to be conscripted. In my opinion, national defense should certainly be a compulsory subject in school with at least 32-35 hours of theory practice to go through," he added.
Conscription is in place in Estonia for eight- or 11-month stints, depending on the speciality, while ex-conscripts remain on reservist lists thereafter. Exemptions include for university students, as well as those with health issues or for conscientious objectors.
Brigit Sepp told ERR that she values her exoeriences
Being out in the woods without any home comforts on its own is a challenge, she said, meaning that almost everything in everyday life seems like a luxury, once she has come back home.
She also has a favorite exercise so far.
"I remember most a competitive race named 'Luurekas'' ('Intelligence', in the military sense – ed.). This was a very interesting experience and I learned a lot more about myself on it, than I would have thought. We raced from point to point, and were given new coordinates at each checkpoint, while at the checkpoint itself, we had to undergo various tasks, for instance first aid, or in one case, reconnaissance," Brigit said.
Joosua added that one of his most memorable activities had been a forest hike late last year, and a winter camp at Jägala, where, among other things, they learned how to get out of a hole in the ice, and fieldcraft in the forest. "As I remember, it was a little cold, but otherwise it was still interesting;" he added.
Members of the Kodutütred and Noored Kotkad also take part, alongside their adult counterparts, in the annual Independence Day parade, on February 24.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi