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Largest annual military exercise Spring Storm 2024 comes to an end

Today marked the end of the Estonian Defence Forces’ largest annual exercise, Spring Storm, which took place from May 6 to 17. Nearly 14,000 conscripts, reservists, active-duty personnel, members of the Estonian Defence League, and allied soldiers participated in the exercise.

After the exercise, units will gather initial feedback from participants, clean and organize the exercise areas, and return to their units’ permanent locations. Following this, all participants will begin the maintenance of equipment, weapons, and gear, after which reservists will return to their civilian lives.

“We have once again done significant work, making us considerably better prepared to defend our people and country. This year’s Spring Storm focused on practicing defensive battles on Estonian soil. The main unit being trained was the 2nd Infantry Brigade,” said Brigadier General Andrus Merilo, Deputy Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces.

For the first time, Spring Storm included the Rescue Board and the Emergency Response Centre to practice delivering hazard notifications to the population, drawing on experience from Ukraine. It is crucial that necessary systems are ready to protect Estonian citizens from any threat. Evacuations of people from danger zones near the Spring Storm exercise battles were also practiced with the Rescue Board.

“This year, thanks to the cooperation of local residents, we have been able to operate in Viljandi, Pärnu, and Lääne counties. Without the support of local inhabitants, such an exercise would not be possible,” said Brigadier General Merilo. “For understandable reasons, we cannot fit all of the exercise to training areas due to the large number of our units.”

The goal of the 19th Spring Storm exercise was to practice conducting defensive operations in cooperation with Allied forces under conventional warfare conditions, involving other branches and commands of the Estonian Defence Forces. The main units in training were the 2nd Infantry Brigade and the Estonian Defence League’s Territorial Defence Region West. Additionally, Spring Storm served as a final test for wartime units prepared during conscription.

During the exercise, reservists refreshed their prior training, practiced cooperation, and were introduced to new equipment and weapons of the Estonian Defence Forces. “Spring Storm is not possible without the full dedication and contribution of reservists, because we test our wartime readiness, which means our units largely consist of reservists. Therefore, my heartfelt thanks go to all the reservists who joined us,” said Brigadier General Merilo. “Also, my sincere thanks to all employers who allow their people to come and contribute to Estonia’s defence.”

The British Army’s deployment exercise Swift Response also took place during Spring Storm, practicing the rapid deployment of allied forces to Estonia in the event of a potential escalating crisis. This year’s exercise saw the 16th Brigade of the British Army conducting air assaults in cooperation with allied forces from the United States, France, Poland, and Estonia.

Spring Storm is the largest exercise of the year for the Estonian Defence Forces, led by the Estonian Division. The exercise involved units from the Army, Air Force, and Navy, including the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades, the Support Command, the Cyber Command, and other Estonian Defence Forces’ and units of the Estonian Defence League.

The exercise Spring Storm included planning and executing military operations and enhancing cooperation between Estonian and allied units. Participants of the exercise were from 15 nations, including NATO Battlegroup’s soldiers stationed in Estonia and those arrived for the exercises from allied and partner countries.

Spring Storm 2024 is part of the NATO exercise series Steadfast Defender 2024, representing a significant component of this extensive NATO exercise. Steadfast Defender 2024 is the largest NATO exercise in decades, with nearly 90,000 participants from all 32 member states participating over a six-month period from January to July 2024. The broader framework for the exercise has been set by confirmed NATO regional defence plans.

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