Estonian volunteers and rapid response training: Insights from Ukraine

 09. 05. 2024      Category: Defense & Security

In the chilly expanse of the TAPA ARMY BASE in Estonia, roughly 90 miles west of the Russian border, the Estonian Scout Battalion is undergoing an intense transformation. This shift in tactics and preparedness comes directly from the experiences of former Scouts who volunteered to fight in Ukraine and have now returned, armed with critical battlefield insights.

Picture: Estonian army members on training | Shutterstock

Lieutenant Colonel Ranno Raudsik, the commander of the Scout Battalion, emphasized the significant impact of these volunteers on the current training regimen. "The biggest part that's going to change is how we engage with and counteract drones," he stated, highlighting a modern challenge in warfare. These insights extend beyond technology, as the volunteers also stress the importance of robust medical care and effective electronic warfare strategies.

The Scout Battalion, reminiscent of the US Army's Philippine Scouts with a storied legacy of over a century, is not just preparing for traditional warfare. Their focus has pivoted towards infantry tactics, drawing heavily from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This shift is part of Estonia's broader military strategy to not only aid Ukraine but also bolster its own defenses against potential threats.

Estonia's proactive defense strategy includes regular snap exercises for its reserve forces, who are expected to mobilize at a moment's notice. According to Lt. Col. Raudsik, the response rate is commendably high, showcasing the readiness and commitment of the reserves.

General Martin Herem, Estonia’s top military officer, and Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, have both voiced strong support for Ukraine. Discussions have been held about positioning Estonian troops in western Ukraine to allow Ukrainian forces to concentrate on front-line engagements. The notion of forming a "coalition of the willing" to support Kyiv more directly has also been floated by European leaders.

While some Scouts gain firsthand experience in Ukraine, others are stationed in Erbil, northern Iraq, where they perform security missions. This deployment comes amid heightened regional tensions following recent attacks in the Middle East. Despite these challenges, Raudsik reports that the security situation at the Erbil base remains stable, with effective air defenses in place.

As global conflicts evolve, so too does the Estonian military's approach to combat and defense. Through direct experience and continuous adaptation, Estonia aims to keep its forces ready and resilient, mirroring the resolve and readiness articulated by Lt. Col. Raudsik: "We’re always ready. That’s our task."

 Author: Lucas Kingsley