The annual Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) military exercise has brought one young émigré Estonian back to his homeland.
Steven Sepp left Estonia as a 10-year-old, for the U.K., but five years ago reached conscription age and, this year, returned to his country of origin for Spring Storm, ERR's online Estonian news reports.
Steven says he has had to regularly explain to friends in Britain what he is doing in Estonia right now. In the U.K., as in much of Europe, mandatory military service is unknown (national service in the U.K. was phased out in the early 1960s-ed.), as are large-scale reserve training exercises, whereas in Estonia, mandatory conscription still exists.
Conscripts in Estonia serve an eight to 11-month compulsory period of military service, then are later subject to call-ups for reservist training every five years.
''Defense is a concept that most Brits don't have to think about; it sort of takes care of itself,'' Steven told Sõdurileht, the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) newsletter.
''The question still comes up, 'why don't you join the army here [in the U.K.],'' he continued.
Steven first came back to Estonia to attend high school, but he remains convinced that it was fulfilling his mandatory military service which saved his native Estonian language skills.
''I have Estonian language education up to third grade, so military service was almost like remedial lessons,'' he said.
Steven, who serves with the reservist pioneer batallion as an ensign (lipnik, in Estonian), has been active on the firing ranges and with exercises placing anti-tank mines.
''The first thing that brought me back is definitely the obligation. However, there is also the experience we all gain on this exercise. Not everyone has the same level of experience, and there are so many things to pick up, from discipline, to leadership, and more,'' he went on, adding that this experience has also impressed his employer – he works in the energy sector despite not having any previous professional experience in that field.
While he still looks for more work experience in the U.K., he would return to Estonia, when thinking about it on a good day, and in case of a crisis and the call for reservists, says he would be back in a heartbeat.
Over 9,000 participants, from approximately 13 countries, are taking part in this year's Spring Storm, including units from the 1st Infantry Brigade, elements of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, units from Support Command, as well as other units of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) and the volunteer Estonian Defence Leage (Kaitseliit), together with personnel from the British-led NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).
Much of Spring Storm takes place in the hinterland of Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru Counties, though some maneuvers are to be carried out in Harju County, surrounding Tallinn, and Jõgeva County in south-central Estonia.
The original article (in Estonian) and video clip is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte