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11 Oct, 2022 18:05

One in three of NATO member’s military reservists go AWOL

Estonia's political leadership have been increasingly hardline on Russia
One in three of NATO member’s military reservists go AWOL

A third of Estonian reservists called up for the country’s annual flash defense exercises failed to show at the assembly point, Martin Herem, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, revealed on Tuesday. He nevertheless called the showing “quite satisfactory.”

These percentages are slightly better than usual,” he said, according to public broadcaster ERR, and acknowledged that “we would still like to get better results.” He stressed the improvement over last year’s flash call-up and noted that Finland had gotten similar results.

Of the 2,861 reservists called up for the training exercise, called OKAS/QUILL, about 1,800 showed up, according to Herem, who explained that a tenth of those called had not even looked at their summons.

That was no excuse, however, as Tallinn is very thorough when it comes to reminding reservists of their military duties. Notices are sent to reservists’ official eesti.ee email address – part of Estonia’s vaunted digital state – and often to their personal email addresses as well.

They also receive text messages and can log in to the Estonian Defense Forces website with their digital ID. “If a person knows which division he belongs to – and this is mentioned in the media several times a day…he must look at the site or call the appropriate phone number” once the exercise is announced, Herem explained.

The six-day “defense readiness exercise” took place last month. Designed to test the functioning of Estonia’s reserve army – “there is no direct security threat to Estonia,” the Ministry of Defense reassured ERR – the drill calls up reservists with no prior notice every autumn. Those whose units are called must report to the assembly point immediately. 

Herem determined that those who had deliberately skipped the training exercises amounted to no more than 10-15% of reservists, adding that they would face misdemeanor charges. As for how to do better next time, he suggested commanders start calling their fighters to build rapport before the call-up.

Estonia’s defense model requires that reservists be ready to be called up for service at all times. The OKAS/QUILL exercise was designed to test the NATO member’s military chain of command, according to the Ministry of Defense.