Page 118 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 118

 Op CABRIT 2019
After a few weeks’ notice, I mobilised onto   style, a few new languages and the obligatory
  The combined NATO forces supporting Op CABRITT form up in Estonia
Op CABRIT Estonia in early May. I had mixed expectations; visions of cold harsh conditions turning into a mosquito infested muggy summer; food reminiscent of Ukraine in 2001; crumbling concrete accommodation and stern-faced locals looking jealously at our Gore-Tex and boots. On the other hand, the job description and prede- cessor’s information promised a flat in Tallinn, a daily commute to Tapa, with the prospects of weekends off, diplomatic functions and lots of briefing to senior officers. As is so often the case, these hopes were dashed but the deployment has proved interesting and challenging!
I was to be based in Tapa camp, which turned out to be a vibrant growing base for the British Battle Group of the Kings Royal Hussars and the Partner Nation Company of Belgians alongside the permanent home of the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade who I was to work within as OC Brigade Integration Team. New accommodation blocks sported clean airy floors with a gym, plenty of showers, ablutions, heating and air conditioning and a sauna on each floor. The new cook house produced food of quality and quantity we could only dream of on HERRICK 5, a shop and two coffee shops, adequate WiFi and welfare facilities. Tappa town is also developing to cater for its new arrivals and an efficient clean cheap train runs frequently into Tallinn.
I learned quickly that the UK and Belgians were not here to teach the Estonians anything. Far from it. The Estonians speak good English and have a dry and wicked sense of humour. They are well equipped and proved very capable. In May, the KRH were in the throes of Exercise SPRING STORM where, despite the comprehensive pre-deployment validation training, they were learning some major lessons in how the Estonians conducted themselves on their home patch. FIWAF in Estonia is a far cry from Armoured BG Offensive Ops on the Plains of Canada. Throw in a different decision-making process and command
vehicle and communication issues and you find a situation requiring patience, adaptability and creativity. Conducting a Brigade level exercise in a very small area that also happens to be someone’s own back garden, field, place of work and other agricultural things become very interesting.
Estonia is unique and developing fast. It has recently become independent of Russian rule and became a member of the EU and NATO. It is mostly as flat and covered in swampy areas, trees or arable farm land. It has a very small population of circa 1.3million people spread over an area of 17462 square miles, many of whom have been through the Estonian Defence Forces Conscript training cycle within one of the Two Brigades that the Estonian Army fields. The military is small but with strong links to civilian institutions through a shared common thread if not directly through military experience, through the fact that they all face a genuine Russian threat on their doorstep. They are not to be underestimated; they are constantly improving their capability, recently purchasing the CV90 AFV, their first tracked AFV and they are experts in fighting in very close, wet wooded terrain in sometimes very cold condi- tions. They have a large reserve element, a SF and there are parts of the home guard defence organisation who appeared only too willing to take up their arms and defend their nation should the need arise. Exercise SPRING STORM is a good test of the nation’s capability to react to military aggression on home soil and its ability to tolerate the training required. A note left on the windscreen of one of the vehicles read (translated) “Please do not drive across my lawn. Thank you for protecting our country”. Tolerance levels vary and the CIMIC officers have their work cut out in seeking permission to use private property and seeking funding and forgiveness to repair inevi- table damage.
Because of the geopolitical environment, NATO are conducting the “enhanced Forward Presence

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