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At the CIOR MILCOMP 2019 prize giving ceremony at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences

09.08.2019

Dear reserve officers of Europe, America and Africa,

I hope that you have enjoyed the “hot” Estonian weather and that you came well prepared for these difficult climate conditions. Because as we all know – preparedness is everything. I know this very well because this is a motto that that my own chief of staff, reserve-lieutenant Tiit Riisalo has used when training his fellow reserve officers for winning the Swiss Raid Commando military competition. So you can imagine that in the Estonian Presidents office we exercise, we train, we prepare mentally for all the challenges that history could throw on us.

This is also a motto that I believe describes the very essence of being a reserve officer. It’s about being prepared to leave your civilian life behind at a very short notice and to pick up arms to defend your country, your way of life, your values. And it’s not only you, it’s also your families and beloved ones that have to be mentally ready. It’s so important and I know that you all are very grateful for your close ones. And I’m also very grateful for all either here in Estonia or elsewhere who support their wives, husbands, brothers and sisters in being prepared.

In many ways the readiness and preparedness of reserve officers is today more important than ever before. Globalization has made the world a smaller place which means that crisis and conflicts can erupt very quickly and quite unexpectedly. There are regions, including the Baltic Sea region, where early-warning-times have actually shrunk to a matter of days, not weeks or months.

That’s why Estonia still retains a totally reserve-based army. And we have actually developed it to be one of the fastest – or the most prepared, for that matter – reserve system in the world. We are capable of mobilizing whole brigades in just a matter of a couple of days. And that’s something that would be impossible without reserve officers leading platoons and companies and manning vital staff positions.

Yes, many Western countries have relinquished such wide-based reserve systems. But there are hardly any armies that can do without highly-prepared officers and specialists that are called up from the reserves. And I believe that this trend only further deepens alongside the fast development of technology. Because most new tech-developments nowadays do take place in the civilian sector and not in anymore under the control of armies and army developers. Therefore it’s quite clear that we need to think how we retain those specialists that operate these tech-systems, but are not willing to totally dedicate their lives to military service.

Part of being prepared is also the constant honing of the practical skills that every servicemember needs on the modern battlefield. That’s why competitions like the MILCOMP are still relevant and necessary. I do agree with those who say that an officer´s main, and in many ways only function is also today to lead people in combat. Yes, one might ask that do officers really need to be expert marksmen or the best ones who read the maps? Because shooting a rifle is first and foremost a private’s task, and maps are usually read by designated point men. But for me, and I believe also for you, the answer is clear: you can never be credible as a leader if you do not know the things you demand from your subordinates.

That’s why I would like to thank and congratulate not only all the participants and winners of this year´s MILCOMP, and also the large network of volunteers who organized this huge and complex event. Among them are of course the Estonian Reserve Officers’ Association, but also the Finnish Reserve Officers’ Federation Lahti branch.  

All of you – the participants and organizers – have shown us what reserve officers are capable and ready to do, and how you prepare. In Estonia our officers have a saying that it doesn’t matter who is the enemy facing you as long as you know with whom are you fighting, who is beside you. During almost 30 years Estonia has re-established it’s defence forces, recreated it own corps of officers and generals. In addition we have a large network of volunteers who are ready to participate in defence. It’s very important because it gives our people an added layer of feeling or security.

Thank you all for being here, thank you for participating and also celebrating the good work that Estonian reserve officers are doing. Thank you and congratulations to all the winners!