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Feb 2 2022

NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia and Estonian Army hone interoperability during largest winter exercise

SZCZECIN, Poland - From 29 January to 6 February, close to 1,400 soldiers take part in the annual Winter Camp exercise on the Central Training Area near Tapa testing their infantry and armour capabilities against the harsh winter conditions in Estonia. It is the largest winter exercise for the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup.

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Exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO
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Estonian service members during exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO

Demonstrating winter interoperability under the command of the 1st Infantry Brigade, British, French and Estonian soldiers will work alongside one another across a range of armour, infantry, planning, engineering and artillery scenarios. Members of the UK-led Battlegroup are also joined by soldiers from the British Army's Parachute and Yorkshire Regiments, who will learn to train alongside armour in a winter environment. "Since our arrival in September, we have placed great emphasis on increasing the Battlegroup's capability and developing integration and interoperability with our allies," said LTC Simon Worth, Commanding Officer of the eFP Estonia Battlegroup.

The Battlegroup has completed a series of exercises to prepare us for operating in the cold weather environment, which allows us to deploy on Winter Camp alongside the Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade and demonstrate the significant progress we have made.

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French service members during exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO

During the exercise NATO soldiers conduct live firing, anti-tank exercises, infantry patrols and engineering tasks, before culminating in a 'force on force' attack and defend training serial, with Estonian colleagues from the Scouts Battalion and the Estonian Defence League posing as the adversary. This year, exercise Winter Camp also includes co-ordination between ground and air forces each day. F-16 fighter jets from the Belgian Air Force, currently stationed at Ämari Air Base in Estonia as part of the NATO Air Policing mission, will provide the air support, enhancing the training for Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, whose role is to direct actions of the aircraft and call in airstrikes.

"Fighting force on force with soldiers from Scouts Battalion and Defence League while at the same time being tested by Estonian winter and difficult terrain will provide a unique learning opportunity for the battlegroup," said commander of 1st Infantry Brigade colonel Andrus Merilo.

Winter Camp will definitely develop United Kingdom, French and Estonian soldiers' and their commanders' skills. They will practice how to maintain combat capabilities of personnel and fighting vehicles and learn how to conduct offensive and defensive actions in winter conditions in the most effective way.

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A British service member during exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO
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A camouflaged tank during exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO
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Mr Ross Allen, UK Ambassador to Estonia, speaks with British troops deployed on exercise Winter Camp in Estonia / Photo by NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia PAO

"After several joint exercises, Winter Camp is the culmination of the French Combat Team's participation to the eFP mission in Estonia," said LTC Nicolas, Deputy Commanding Officer of the eFP Estonia Battlegroup. "It is a real opportunity for our soldiers to perfect their tactical skills in a demanding winter environment, as well as to strengthen their interoperability work with our NATO allies."

NATO's enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Estonia is currently led by the Royal Tank Regiment from the United Kingdom, with France and Denmark providing forces on a rotational basis. Iceland also contributes to the eFP. The eFP Battlegroups in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are led by Canada, Germany and the US respectively and all NATO Battlegroups have been integrated into their host nations' brigades to ensure maximum cohesion between Allied forces.

Story by Multinational Corps Northeast Public Affairs Office, courtesy of Estonian Defence Forces

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