William Molinié (special envoy to Estonia), edited by Juliette Moreau Alvarez
08:08, December 04, 2022modified to
08:23, December 04, 2022
The French army trains the Estonian armed forces to defend their territory. This Baltic country, a member of NATO, has been very worried about its security since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Since yesterday, 185 French, 90 British and 300 members of the Estonian Defense League have been carrying out a major exercise there in extreme conditions, accompanied by cold, snow and wind. The opportunity also for the French soldiers to train in an icy environment, close to that of Donbass in Ukraine. Europe 1 followed soldiers from the 13th Alpine Hunters Battalion.
A wet and freezing cold
It is 3 p.m. and night is falling on the island of Saaremaa. The temperature is approaching -10 degrees. In the freezing cold, First Class Samuel boils water for a hot meal. “Here, it’s oriental noodles,” he describes. “As soon as we can we make a coffee, hot noodles…”
If the alpine hunters are used to the cold, this one is particular, as explained by the head of section Maxime. “So the feeling we have is that it’s a little wetter, as we’re really low and it’s a lot of swamps everywhere. Wet cold is going to be much more effective, we’ve seen that this morning: as soon as the wind picked up by the sea, we immediately felt the difference.”
Completely unknown territory
These French know how to trudge, build igloos, hold passes, but in Estonia, the relief is non-existent. No choice: they must adapt their combat techniques. “We do everything à la carte, and we adapt according to the fairly precise maps we have, because all the overdrafts are really rather well marked, most of the tracks are really very realistic.” Alpine hunters are also well equipped to deal with Estonian conditions. “There is a part of the drones that can be useful to us, we had visuals on a drone earlier that enlightened us ahead of the discoveries.”
Beyond technology, the Estonians also lent other equipment to the French for this special exercise, such as 12-person tents with a stove in the middle. Enough to raise the temperature during the night around 10 degrees.
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