Estonian Special Operations Force
|This article is outdated. (January 2013)|
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2013)|
|Estonian Special Operations Force|
|Branch||Estonian Ground Force|
|Role||Airborne operations, Raids, Unconventional Warfare, Counter-Insurgency, Anti-Terror, Long range reconnaissance|
|Part of||Intelligence Battalion|
|Engagements||War in Afghanistan|
The Estonian Special Operations Force (ESTSOF) is the Estonian Defence Forces' special forces unit, which is a part of the intelligence battalion. Most of the information concerning the unit is top secret.
ESTSOF was officially formed in 1995, but only existed on paper until 2002, when a preparation group was made. Today an instructor staff, which had great training in different parts of the world, exists. Most of the men in the unit have experiences in small unit tactics from deployments like Afghanistan and Iraq. Though it is a subunit of the intelligence battalion, the project has been codenamed ESTSOF (Estonian Special Operations Force).
ESTSOF was officially mentioned for first time in 2005, when the Defense Force made a website public for a brief moment, introducing the new unit. At that time a search for the instructors was initiated and it was said, that by 2009 a 36 man recon platoon would become operational. Supposedly the SF members have to be ready to operate in urban, desert, mountainous and maritime environments and be able to operate behind enemy lines for months without outer support.
The project's funding was sketchy at first, it was mainly taken from other areas, but by 2008 it had its own financial resources that helped jump-start the project. By 2011, the first unit should be fully operational that can be sent on deployment with other NATO units.
The size of the unit, as well as the identities of its operators are closely guarded secrets.
The creation of ESTSOF began in 2005, when the first opportunity to candidate for the unit was announced. By now the instructor staff has been trained. In early phases of the project at least a three-year Defense Force experience was required to candidate. In a selection process held in 2009, there was no such requirement. The candidates were required, that they'd be capable of diving to the depth of 4.5 metres (15 ft), where they'd have to apply a diving mask to their faces. They'd also have to be able to swim 25 meters underwater and complete a 400-metre swimming distance while on the clock. The minimum standard for a Special Forces soldier is 240 points which is at least 62 push-ups and 72 sit-ups, both of which have to be completed in two minutes. There is also a 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) run that has to be completed under 13.49 minutes.
To candidate in the Special Forces, the candidate has to prepare himself physically and mentally beforehand.
Quote from the evening newspaper: The masked runner is one of few, who among soldiers is used as a propaganda tool for the unit. Already in 2005 ESTSOF's cadre or instructor-operators were being searched for, that is also when the first selection was held. The selected have already been trained in Estonia as well as in other countries. Back then the project was headed by ground forces officer Rene Toomse, who is now working in the private sector. In the soldier's forum Rene Toomse was the one who asked for volunteers to join the unit under his own name. Toomse graduated some ten years ago the Ranger course in the USA. It is also important to know, that the unit's special trainings take place in homeland as well as abroad: Toomse has described for the media how during an 8 week training course, the temperature in the training sites swayed from 5 to 40 degrees Celsius, as well as being able to sleep only 1–4 hours a day. Trainees had to pass through forests, mountains and swamps. Some of the men lost it - for example a man started conversing with trees. The instructors cussed at the trainees as much as possible.