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Defence League volunteers join NATO troops in first-of-a-kind exercise

01.07.2019
Personnel from Estonia's voluntary Defence League (Kaitseliit) were on exercise with NATO troops this weekend, according to Baltic News Service, gaining anti-tank warfare experience on a scale the organization had previously not enjoyed.
The Defence League members, from the Tallinn, Harju and Rapla region, joined British and French personnel at the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) central training area June 28-30, and engaged in anti-tank warfare training.

The exercise, named Hunt 2019, gave the first ever opportunity for Kaitseliit volunteers to conduct defensive and delaying operations against an enemy equipped with heavy armor, EDF spokespersons said.

The British and French tank and infantry personnel also gained experience in fighting against an enemy with a greater familiarity with its own home area, as well as practising standard combat procedures, it is reported.

Janno Märk, head of the Tallinn region of Kaitseliit and one of the driving forces behind Hunt 2019 exercise, expressed his satisfaction with the outcome.

"Thanks to our allies, Kaitseliit members were able to rehearse classical conventional warfare, which we all hope to God will never take place in Estonia, but which we must be prepared for nevertheless. Following Victory Day and ahead of the Song Celebration, Hunt 2019 was an altogether beneficial endeavor in national defense for us," Märk said.

A British Army Air Corps (AAC) AH-64 Apache ground attack helicopter joined the Defence League personnel in the exercise, in order to even out the relative strength of the two sides, according to BNS.

Exercise Hunt 2019 was part of exercise Baltic Protector 2019 which included rehearsals of the arrival of allied units by sea and the dispatch of equipment in Harju County and the island of Saaremaa.

British and French forces form a large part of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), based at Tapa, east of Tallinn, and currently centered around the British Army's Kings Royal Hussars (KRH) armored regiment.

Estonia joined NATO in 2004.