VORU, Estonia -- Over the hills and through the streets to assault the town they go! Estonia Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Kuperjanov Battalion, and U.S. Soldiers from Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, worked together as they assaulted an enemy force during an urban operations training exercise in Voru, Estonia, April 30, 2016.
This was the first time that Estonian Soldiers performed an urban operations training exercise with U.S. Soldiers.
It was not an average Saturday for the citizens of Voru for a symphony of blank gunfire from various weapons rang out as they walked the streets carrying about their business. They were encompassed by U.S. and Estonian Soldiers moving tactically through the city streets as one army, sharing and sharpening their urban techniques.
During their rotation to Operation Atlantic Resolve, Eagle Troop teamed up with Estonian Soldiers to conduct a "real-life" situational training. The combined training exercise began at the edge of town and continued through the streets, buildings, parks, parking lots and back yards of Voru residences, until they reached the center of town where the exercise came to an end.
"Basically, we went through an operation where we cleared half of the city of Voru starting from the outskirts and moving inside the city," said Estonian Army Sgt. Carl Maask, a platoon leader with 2nd Inf. Bgde., Kuperjanov Btn. "It was quite interesting to work with our allies because we haven't had much armor support before. They are very professional at what they do and they're pretty fast. I really enjoyed working with them."
The exercise was also a good training opportunity for the U.S. Soldiers to work on their communications and skills, especially with allied troops.
"I think the training worked out because, even though there were Estonian Soldiers playing the opposing force, we had Estonians working with us, too," said U.S. Army Pfc. Austin Horner, a grenadier with Eagle Troop, originally from Somerset, Ky. "I think if we ever got into this kind of situation where we have to work together, we will better understand each other's ways of performing flanking maneuvers, clearing buildings and other movements because of this exercise."
Horner went on to say that he was very grateful for the chance to be a part of this exercise with the Estonian Army -- an opportunity that not even some senior leaders have had.
"The best part for me was that I got to do this during my first duty station," said Horner. "I'm fresh out of basic training and I got to hone in on my infantry abilities and learn a little bit more. I thought the exercise was a great opportunity for me because even people way above my rank are saying this is the first time in their careers they have ever seen this particular kind of training, a training that took place in a real town that people actually live in. This was really fun and I think that this will help build a better relationship between the two armies."
A citizen of Voru also expressed his feelings about the combined training exercise and the presence of the American Troops.
"I think Estonia has a powerful army, and it's so nice to see that Americans are with us, and we have support from somewhere," said Kristo Koskinen, a Voru citizen. "My favorite part was when they invaded a gas center; that was really fun to watch."
After the tactical portion of the exercise, the events concluded with Eagle Troop providing a static display of their weapons, equipment, gear and Stryker vehicles for the citizens of Voru to observe. It also gave the U.S. Soldiers and Estonians a chance to learn more about each other as they conversed.
As a small group of U.S. and Estonian Soldiers were talking, an elderly man with snow-white hair, frail and wrinkled face and hands, approached them, said something in Estonian, shook their hands and with a twinkle in his eyes, departed the group using a walking stick to keep his balance.
Estonian Army Lt. Mait Rembel, the intelligence chief of 2nd Inf. Bgde., Kuperjanov Btn., informed them that the gentleman said, "So these are the Soldiers that are keeping our peace and helping us sleep at night. God bless you and keep you forever safe. I have seen many bad people from bad countries come. Thank you for helping us keep our freedom."
Rembel went on to say that many of the citizens of Estonia have only seen the U.S. Soldiers' presence in this land, but for the older generation, they have not only seen the American forces, but they were also here when the Nazi German forces came, as well as the Soviet forces.
The Soviet forces didn't leave Estonia until August of 1994, he continued.
"So, from a Soldier's point of view, and from a citizen's point of view, we are very glad to have America on our side, training with us, and being here with us," said Rembel. "For some, like the older gentleman, it brings a greater peace of mind."
These training exercises and activities are part of U.S. Army Europe's Operation Atlantic Resolve land force assurance training taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to enhance multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied armies, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO.