Estonian defense forces to stage snap reserve exercise for 300

PHOTO: Ardi Hallismaa / Kaitsevägi

The Estonian defense forces will stage an extraordinary reservist training event from Dec. 2-5 as part of which more than 300 members of the 433rd infantry company of the Voru district of the Kaitseliit volunteer corps and reservists of the headquarters company who finished their conscript service in 2014 will be called up.

All the reservists of the said units have been ordered to turn up at designated rally points at 8 p.m. on Dec. 2, military spokespeople said on Thursday.

Summons to the reservist training will be sent to the personnel concerned by text message and e-mail.

The government on Thursday adopted an order to stage the additional reservist training from Dec. 2-5. As part of the exercise codenamed Okas (Hedgehog Quill), the defense forces will activate the 433rd infantry company to be formed by the Voru district of Kaitseliit and the headquarters company of the 10th Headquarters Support and Signal Battalion assigned to reserve after the Spring Storm exercise in 2014.

"I call upon all the reservists who received a call to the additional reservist training to make an input using their time for the sake of Estonia and our national defense," Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna said. "Every quill counts. Every soldier is important, because only acting together will we create a force as strong as steel, which cannot be broken easily."

The aim of the additional reservist training is to rehearse the functioning of the chain of command from the point a decision is made by the government to the call reaching reservists of the rapid response structure, and the unit achieving combat readiness.

The National Defense Act that took effect this year modernizes the principles of Estonia's national defense and sets out the possibility to summon reservists with 24-hour notice.

Defense forces expect Okas exercise to bring high turnout

he Estonian defense forces believe that fully manning the units they intend to expand to their designated size as part of the Okas exercise will not be a problem, Lt. Col. Aron Kalmus, head of the defense forces' operations department, said on Thursday.

Kalmus told reporters that the turnout rate of reservists at reserve training events has been constantly rising. Where before the Siil (Hedgehog) large-scale exercise in spring 2015 it used to be 60-70 percent, Siil saw a significantly higher turnout. "The turnout rates that we used to have earlier have become a thing of the past," Kalmus said.

Kalmus also said that the personnel lists of the wartime units of the defense forces have been made longer from the start to allow for a certain percentage of the personnel to not show up. Besides, the Okas exercise is for members of the reserve who have attended reserve training already and it will not be the first time for them to take part in an event like this.

He added that if a person has a sound reason for absence, it's possible for the commander of the unit to make a considered decision and relieve the person from the obligation to take part in the exercise.

Kalmus also pointed out that the purpose of the exercise is not to attract as big as possible number of personnel but to rehearse procedures. Commenting on the link with the Siil large-scale exercise held earlier, Kalmus said that "a quill, although smaller, is sharper." He added that the structure of the exercise is not different from a regular reserve training event, just the order and timeline of notification are different.

The head of the Estonian defense forces' operations department denied a link between the timing of the training event and the security environment.