This year's Siil ("hedgehog") exercise will include up to 15,000 members of the Estonian Defence Forces, the Defence League, the Women's Voluntary Defence Organization, the Police and Border Guard, the Rescue Board, and NATO allied personnel. The exercise starts today Wednesday and ends on May 14.
Commander of the EDF Gen. Riho Terras explained that Siil is primarily a territorial defense exercise, in which the volunteers of Defence League play an important role.
"At the same time we can't ignore the importance of cooperation between the state and the population to guarantee security. Everyone has their role to play. In today's world security is a matter not only for national defense organizations, but also for internal security authorities as well as the private and public sectors," Terras said.
Main focus on territorial defense and Defence League volunteer troops
As territorial defense necessarily includes operations on private property, and volunteers will be absent from work for the time of the exercise, Terras also thanked land owners and businesses for their cooperation. "Without their support, carrying out an exercise this size would be impossible," the general said.
The main objective of Siil is to practise Estonia's territorial defense both in terms of conventional warfare and other less common environments. This year's exercise is happening all across Estonia, and in its final phase will concentrate on the south-east as well as northern Latvia.
The exercise is running until May 14 and is divided into three stages. The first, from May 2-4, is concentrating on making all participating units battle-ready. In the second phase from May 4-7, cooperation between different units is practised. In the third and final phase from May 8-12, the units will carry out simulated combat exercises.
While the exercise is concentrating on territorial defense, it also includes allied naval and air forces. Personnel of 19 NATO allies are participating in the exercise.
Siil to cross border for first time
This year's Siil will cross the southern border and partly take place on the territory of Latvia. This is the first time the exercise is extended to locations beyond Estonia's immediate territorial boundaries, ERR's TV news reported.
According to Terras, this means working on Estonia and Latvia's defense cooperation, which has been made one of the exercise's goals as well.
Editor: Dario Cavegn