Baltic Defence Study Trip successfully conducted


The students of the Joint Command and General Staff Course (JCGSC) 2022/2023 visited the capitals and different military units of the Baltic states as part of the annual Baltic Defence Study Trip (BDST). This Study Trip is an integral and important part of the course curriculum, providing the students with knowledge of the national defence policies, decision-making principles, and defence planning priorities. It also contributes to familiarisation with international military structures, including NATO's presence in the region and a better understanding of national military installations, facilities, and history.
                                                                                                

The visited institutions were chosen by the principle that the students would gain knowledge with respect to specific fields to meet the BDST Learning Objectives. In addition, some of the institutions contributed to familiarisation with international military structures, including NATO's presence in the region, as well as the attainment of a better understanding of national military installations and facilities.

#Estonia

On the first day, the group visiting Estonia had the opportunity to meet with Mr Leo Kunnas, Vice Chairman of the Estonian National Defence Committee. The main focus was defence policies and budget, its increase and planned allocation. The program also included a visit to the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the international challenges and the activities related to Ukraine. 

The second day of the BDST included various briefings and discussions. Estonian group started the day in the NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU) in Estonia, followed by a defence planning and budget discussion with Ms Tiina Uudeberg, the Undersecretary for Defence Planning from the Estonian Ministry of Defence. The day continued with speakers from EDF HQ, the Center for Defence Investment, Defence League and the Estonian Navy. 
BG Riho Ühtegi, the Commander of the Defence League presented the nature of the organization, main tasks, equipment etc. Commodore Jüri Saska, the Commander of the Estonian Navy, gave a briefing about the Navy, its equipment/ships, ongoing projects and major exercises in which they take part. 

The third day was dedicated to the Air Force being an opportunity to visit the Estonian Air Force Ämari base, where the students were briefed by Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff (COS) LTC Fredi Karu. He introduced the main tasks of the Air Force, cooperation with NATO and other Baltic states. The briefing was followed by a base tour, where the group had the opportunity to greet Belgium Air Policing Officers and see the F-16s. The second half of the day was spent in the Seaplane Harbour Museum.

On the last day of the BDST, the programme took students to Tapa, where they had the opportunity to get familiar with the 1st Infantry Brigade (INF BDE) followed by a Tapa base tour. The students saw the equipment of the Scouts Battalion, the new barracks and the Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP’s) equipment. It was followed by introduction of main tasks, objectives and future challenges of the 1st INF BDE by its Commander, COL Andrus Merilo.

The day ended with a briefing by the NATO Battlegroup Estonia representative, who explained tasks, objectives and responsibilities in Estonia.

#Latvia

The group visiting Latvia kicked off their BDST with Kurzeme Staff Ride with a lecture on the strategic and operational situation of the WWII operations on the Kurland Peninsula in 1944 and 1945, and then we got acquainted with the Priekule battle. The students had the opportunity to examine the terrain and situational maps as well as receive the detailed comments of the military historian and a Subject Matter Expert Mr Valdis Kuzmins. The Latvian group continued to explore the battle of Kurzeme of World War II when the students visited the defensive installations of Liepaja Karosta and the sight of the Lestenes battle. They had a great possibility to visit the Headquarters of Naval Forces hosted by COS, Commander Gvido Ļaudups.

On the third day, the group paid a visit to the Riga Castle, where the Administration of the President of the Republic of Latvia is situated. The students had an opportunity to meet with the National Security Adviser to the President of Latvia, Mr Jānis Kažociņš, and the Legal Policy Adviser Mr Jānis Pleps.

After the visit, the programme continued in the Ministry of National Defence of Latvia. The officers were welcomed by the Secretary of the State Jānis Garisons and various presentations were heard from the Directors of the Defence Planning and Analysis Department and the Department of Military Public Affairs. Students were also introduced to STRATCOM Centre of Excellence and the NATO Force Integration Unit in Latvia.

During the visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the BALTDEFCOL officers received a presentation on Latvia’s foreign policy.

The BDST's final day of continued in Ādaži, one of the largest military camps, where both Latvian and NATO units are stationed. The students were welcomed by the Latvian Land Forces and mechanized brigade Commander Colonel Sandris Gaugers, who is also the Ādaži Garrison Commander.  It included briefings by representatives of the Latvian JHQ J3/5/7 Department; NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia, and NATO Multinational Division North. The up-to-date information was presented regarding the units’ readiness, training and exercises, and future projects. 
During the visit to the Ādaži base, the team got the opportunity to become familiar with the situation of infrastructure development and daily living conditions of the military personnel serving on the base.

#Lithuania

The BDST started with a visit to the Lithuanian President's Palace and the Ministry of National Defence with the opportunity to meet members of the National Security and Defence Committee, the Chancellor of the MoND and the Defence Policy Director. For members of the Žemaitis Syndicate, it was a special day as they had an opportunity to visit General Žemaitis's statue, the Syndicate patron, located in the middle of Vilnius.


The next day, the group visited Lithuania (LTU) Armed Forces Defence Staff and NATO Force Integration Unit Lithuania to be familiarized with how the Lithuanian Armed Forces and NFIU contribute to national security and defence. Later, the BALTDEFCOL students visited Marijampole, where representatives of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union hosted a historical case study related to the 1941 battles in Lithuania.

The third day was dedicated to the Air Force marked by a visit to the Air Force Base in Šiauliai, where students had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the structure and tasks of the LTU Air Force. The visit ended with a meeting with Hungarian colleagues from Baltic Air Policing Detachment.

On the last day of the BDST, the students visited the Pabradė Training Area. At that time, the Iron Wolf Brigade conducted a field exercise to integrate NATO eFP Battlegroup Lithuanian Defence Forces. Even though both units were busy fulfilling their tactical task, the welcome was warm, and interesting information was provided by the presenters. 

The Baltic Defence College expresses its sincerest gratitude towards all high-level speakers and contributors. 



 
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