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Defence Forces

Defence Forces

The Estonian Defense Forces (Eesti kaitsevägi) is a regular force in active service of the Estonian Defense Forces and the most important part of the Estonian Defense Forces, which is an institution of state power subordinate to the government and administered by the Ministry of Defence.

Active military personnel and officers serve in the Estonian Defense Forces. The Defense Forces in active service are subdivided into Contracted Personnel Defense Forces, Conscripts and Training Reservists. The peacetime defense forces number about 7.1 thousand people, of which up to 3 thousand conscripts and about 1.3 thousand workers and employees.

The main task of the Defense Forces is to ensure readiness to defend the country through military action. The command and control body of the Defense Forces General Staff of the Defense Forces plans and carries out operations with the participation of units of all branches of the armed forces.

Citizens aged 18 to 27 who meet the requirements are accepted for military service. The term of service in the Defense Forces is 11 or 8 months, depending on the time of the call (and, accordingly, on the subsequent position). During military service, the knowledge and skills necessary for a reserve soldier are acquired, and at the same time, to a small extent, they are prepared for the primary defense of the country. Annually, 2700-3000 conscripts (about 40% of all conscripts) can be called up for active service.

Until 1940, Estonia had an efficient police system, a small but well-trained army (16,000 men) and a civil guard of 60,000 men. All these forces were disbanded after the country was annexed by the Soviet Union, and their command staff was repressed.

In the autumn of 1991, after the restoration of independence, Estonia began to create an internal security and defense system. The constitution provides for conscription, but also includes alternative service for those who refuse to serve in the army for religious and other reasons. A land army, a naval coast guard, air defense, a maritime border service, and a security service (internal and border) have been created in Estonia. Military spending is approx. 2% of the budget. Estonia actively participates in the peacekeeping activities of the UN and regional organizations. In 1994, Estonia joined the NATO Partnership for Peace program.

The Constitution of the Republic of Estonia foresees conscript service in the Defence Forces of all physically and mentally healthy male citizens.

The duration of the conscript service is 8 or 11 months, depending on the selectee’s level of education and the position to which the Defence Forces assigns the conscript. In the conscript service, conscripts acquire basic knowledge necessary for them to act as specialists in wartime military units.

When sent to the reserve, they make up one reserve unit led by commanders who have been trained during the conscript service and who come from the same unit.

After the conscript service, reservists are called up for reservist training. There the skills mastered during the conscript service are reinforced and new arms and equipment are introduced.

What do you learn in the conscript service?

In the first months of the service, soldiers acquire the main skills needed by a single fighter. In the basic course, you learn about arms, orientation and first aid, and also acquire skills for forest camps, knowledge about basic tactics, behaviour in the Defence Forces and legislation. The level of basic knowledge is checked with a theoretical and practical soldier’s exam.

During the conscript service, you acquire basic knowledge of national defence and are provided training to enable you to fight as a member of a team. After the conscript service, you are sent to the reserve.

What will happen after conscript service?

The Estonian Defence Forces are a reserve force and, if necessary, Estonia will be defended by units formed of reservists.

As a reservist, you may be called up for training at a unit, training centre or defence force educational institution. At reserve trainings, the knowledge and skills acquired in the conscript service are refreshed. As the technology and requirements in the Defence Forces are changing, it is necessary for the reserve to keep up to date and become familiar with the characteristics and use of new technology. You will be called up to reserve trainings together with the people with whom you completed your conscript training.

Estonian Special Operations Forces (ESTSOF)

The Estonian Special Operations Forces is the special ops of the Estonian Defence Forces that focus on unconventional warfare including reconnaissance, surveillance, military support, and direct action. The unit comes under the Commender of the Estonian Defence Forces.

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