TAPA, Estonia — At 59 degrees North latitude, the training area used by the U.S. Army this past week in Estonia differs greatly from many places in the United States.
Among the things that stand out to many who visit are the frigid cold temperatures. Given this challenge, and the no-notice order to rapidly move from Germany to Estonia, Soldiers of the 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, tested their mettle during a series of training events Mar. 6-14.
Making it through these challenges requires each Soldier to trust the training completed up to this point in their deployment to Europe. It also requires them depend on their countrymen, and in this case, their North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.
“This is one of the most tightly-knit teams I've seen in my 26 years in the Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Vedros, the senior-enlisted member of the 82nd BEB. “These men worked together like family."
Within hours of an order to move to the Baltics, Vedros and his men packed their gear and moved more than a thousand miles from Grafenwoehr, Germany to a location previously unknown to most of them.
“These men have done a terrific job,” said Vedros, while reminiscing of previous deployments and Army experiences. “It was like watching an 82nd Airborne Division rapid deployment. Before anybody knew it these Soldiers were coming to Estonia loaded up and ready to go, and our NATO allies knew exactly what to do when we sent them."
Upon arrival in Estonia, U.S. troops worked with the Estonian, U.K., Canadian, and Danish armies to establish and solidify a mutually-beneficial training schedule. Among the first training events lined up for the Americans was cold-water immersion drills with the U.K.’s 1st Royal Welsh Battalion. This was followed by other training events with the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment and the Danish Guard Hussars Regiment.
The goal for all the training is to build upon previously-established relations between the U.S. and NATO allies, said Lt. Col. Jesse Curry, 82nd BEB commander. Additionally, Curry wanted to ensure that his unit stands ready to act within a moment’s notice to any contingencies in Europe. His unit is in Europe to support Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. Army Europe effort to deter aggression in the region.
Curry added that he believes his Soldiers’ ability to rapidly move across several countries without warning sends a distinct message to any who might oppose his unit or other NATO forces.
“Our brigade is here to show that we can move and project power across all of Europe,” said Curry. “When you can take an element from anywhere in Europe and push them like we have to the most forward point within NATO it sends a tremendous message. That we can, and absolutely have the capability, to defend our NATO allies … and to be lethal if necessary.”
To close out their time in Estonia, the U.S. Soldiers provided chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense training to the Estonian army's 1st Infantry Brigade.
Spc. Dewight Young, a Bowie, Maryland native and a CBRN specialist with the 82nd BEB, participated throughout the weeklong the mission and said he believes that what his fellow Soldiers completed in Estonia will have a lasting positive impact.
“I’ve never worked with so many people from so many different countries before, but I am glad we did,” said Young. “It’s not just Americans, but English, Danish, Estonian and everyone else working together to do something good in the world.”