Ground WarfareMilitary Exercise

French Army Mountain Infantry Soldiers Sharpen Tactical Skills in Estonia

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During their deployment in Estonia, the French Army’s soldiers with the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade, who form the bulk of the French contingent within NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Estonia, participated in a series of intense exercises, testing tactics and interoperability with Estonian, British and Danish troops. The mountain commandos will soon rotate out and make way for the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion. The mountain infantry unit training in Estonia consists of tough, highly trained and battle-hardened service members. At the same time, it was a test of the mountain infantry soldiers’ ability to move in quickly for the purpose of Estonia’s integrated defence against any aggression, if needed.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge was conducting attacks against tanks. It is difficult to set up an ambush against tanks in the flat terrain, which also makes it more difficult for us to hide. That is where support from artillery and intelligence comes in, and we had it. Working as a team with 155mm artillery guns and HIMARS multiple rocket launchers was an excellent example of multinational cooperation within NATO,” says Lieutenant Colonel Jean Philippe who commanded the unit assigned to NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia.

Currently in Estonia, soldiers with the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade trained in a great many locations across the world, incl. Greenland, Norway and French Guyana
Currently in Estonia, soldiers with the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade trained in a great many locations across the world, incl. Greenland, Norway and French Guyana. (Photo by French Army)

“In Afghanistan and Mali, we fought an enemy that had no armoured vehicles or drones. Here, we are training to fight against a modern enemy. We constantly need to adjust and make small changes in tactics; how quickly we need to move artillery after use, how to avoid infrared sensors, how to make sure we have the right clothes to protect ourselves against the humid cold in Estonia. On this mission we wanted to face a very strong enemy. We came on short notice but what has made the mission memorable is working with our Estonian, British and Danish colleagues. In spite of the different languages, it was easy to talk as soldiers about tactics and manouvers. And, in that way, is easy to be engaged in such an operation,” LTC Jean Philippe says.

In this Baltic country, they had to endure days of bivouacing without support, attacking a dug-in enemy, finding ways of destroying modern battle tanks and hiding from the adversary’s heat-seeking drones and other electronic warfare capabilities. The lack of mountains in Estonia did not faze the mountain commandos. Despite the name and their proven ability to manouver expertly in their home region of the French Alps, they have tested their mettle in recent years in conflicts in Afghanistan and Mali.

During their training as part of NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia, soldiers with the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade performed a variety of combat tasks alongside British, Danish and Estonian Allies
During their training as part of NATO eFP Battlegroup Estonia, soldiers with the 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade performed a variety of combat tasks alongside British, Danish and Estonian Allies. (Photo by French Army)
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