AHJA, Estonia -The snowy forests of the Baltic Republic of Estonia were home to Soldiers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during Christmas Thunder, a training exercise with Estonian Soldiers, Dec. 11 - 12, 2018. The Soldiers are in Estonia in support of the 1st ABCT Atlantic Resolve rotation across Europe, which is to improve the interoperability between U.S. Forces and their NATO allies and partners.
The Soldiers' mission was to link up with a battalion of Estonian forces and scout the area for other Estonian Soldiers role playing an enemy. It is a large exercise to improve the Estonian and U.S. Soldiers' teamwork and noncommissioned officers' tactical leadership.
"The training is for skills for the junior noncommissioned officers to show them the bigger picture," Estonian Army Lt. Col. Thomas Tõmiste, the senior officer for the exercise said.
The exercise began with a convoy of up-armored Humvees, four-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, departing the unit's base at Voru at 7 a.m., Earlier in the morning, unit leaders assigned Soldiers to vehicles, Soldiers checked radios, gear and maps for the event.
The convoy wound along country roads passing farms, shops and villages over 50 kilometers to the 10 square kilometer training area. After link up with one squad of Estonian Soldiers the U.S. Soldiers fan out along the forests and roads looking for the enemy.
Teams of Soldiers march forward scouting the area as the vehicles advance close behind the advance team. The unit's commander keeps in constant contact with Estonian Soldiers via radio and an Estonian Soldier attached to the unit and coordinated their movements.
"They were great, I enjoy working with Estonian Soldiers," U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ethan Milukas, a platoon leader assigned to 2 - 12 Cav said.
The Scouts march over 7 miles throughout the 36-hour mission. They made contact with several Estonian squads. Soldiers dive for cover, returning fire as the Milukas reports the contact to the Estonian battalion headquarters. The exercise didn't just improve coordination between NATO allies but sharpened skills with each force learning from the other.
"It's good seeing how a battalion is run in the Estonian army, they do the same missions with less personnel," Milukas said.
The 27 Soldiers of the 2 - 12 Cav deployed to Estonia in late November, visiting several schools in the region and conducting marksmanship, communications field training with Estonian Soldiers at a base in Voru, Estonia.