South Estonia snap military exercise goes ahead

Last year's Exercise Okas.
Last year's Exercise Okas. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Friday's snap Exercise Okas ("Quill") in South Estonia saw an eager response to the call up, but given how it is organized, should not lead to large numbers of personnel in the one place, but rather more dispersed, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Friday.

ERR's Mirjam Mõttus reported from the ground in Põlva County.

Lt. Col. Raul Kütt, who heads up the Defense League's Southern District Territorial Defense (Maakaitse) told AK that the quickest person to respond to the call-up arrived in the exercise zone within 10 minutes.

He said: "Surely, I want to thank all the employers who have provided the opportunity for these people to take part."

"Likewise, all those families who have given their blessing to those attending, in order for this additional training gathering to go as well as it possibly can, with our national defense to further improve as a result. Thank you."

Reservists are expected to arrive right through to Sunday lunchtime, AK reported, and given the dispersed nature of the large-scale exercise spatially, as well as temporally, this will not lead to disruption.

At bang on 3 p.m. on Friday, things were calm at the Põlva Defense District (Malev), and the arrival of personnel went without hitch.

The changed security situation has led to greater integration between the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) and EDF reservists, those who have served their term of conscription and who remain on lists and liable for service thereafter.

The latter also turn to the nearest Defense League district to their place of residence, making things quicker and more convenient, and avoiding congestion.

The ensuing territorial defense units are centered around their light infantry capabilities, following the lessons of the Russian invasion of Ukraine so far, with the regular EDF's 1st and 2nd brigades carrying the heavy infantry role.

Lt Col Kütt said: "Since all this activity covers the whole of South Estonia - Tartu, Põlva, Võru and Valga counties, and Sakala (Viljandi County-ed,) - we are seeing these units much more dispersed, as smaller groups."

"The point of this is to rehearse all the procedures and activities which are required to achieve a unit's combat readiness, i.e. notification, and rehearsing the actions of personnel in such a way that they can set aside their daily activities [to attend]," he went on.

One such attendee was Allan Aron, father of four, who was sitting at his computer at his home office when he received the message on his phone, calling him up to Okas.

Two hours later he was at the Põlva Defense District headquarters.

"It went well today, it happened to be a day which suited in that the children had already been taken to kindergarten and school in the morning, while the wife also had the day off today, so that these things could be sorted out nicely," Aron said.

Businessman Riho Luht arrived at 4 p.m. "Work commitments and all those things. The first thought was that we have to turn up yet again. There was nothing else for it, we have to attend, what more is there to do," he said, speaking frankly.

Anton Sildnik arrived in civilian clothing with his young daughter in tow, and immediately headed for a medical.

"I picked up a knee injury. I guess I won't be able to stand up for a few days during the period of the exercise, so I will need to rest my leg. /.../ When you are called up by name, you certainly have to attend," he said, expressing regret that his injury would bar him from taking part this time around.

As reported by ERR News, the snap Exercise Okas – Okas means "quill" or "spine" in Estonian – will bring and estimated just over 600 people to the southernmost counties of Estonia.

The last Exercise Okas, which by its nature is announced at short notice, took place in January-February.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

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