Weather among the key challenges for Spanish soldiers in Latvia

Spain is a country with extensive experience of military operations abroad, beginning from the UN Mission in Angola in 1989. Despite the past experience, taking part in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Latvia has been a challenge.

Mainly due to two factors: the climate conditions that the soldiers will have to face in Latvia and the fact that this is first time the deployment of Spanish troops involved transporting heavy equipment –including the battle tank Leopard 2E, which boasts some of world’s best cutting-edge technology - writes

Leopard 2E possesses a thicker armor in areas more likely to receive enemy fire (the tower and the front of the helmet) than the German Leopard 2A6, and it uses a Spanish-designed command and control system similar to the one that can be found in the German Leopard 2.

Captain Carlos Cespedosa explained that Leopard 2E is the element that has the biggest firepower capacity in the whole battlegroup, and has much more maneuverability than the rest of the tanks. It entered service in 2005, and at the time was the world’s most modern platform, although currently some of its elements would merit an update, particularly its optics, electronics, and protection.

Adapting to the climate in Latvia will indeed be a challenge. For that, the Spanish soldiers followed a special training program in a military base in Zaragoza where the extreme winter conditions of the Baltic weather were simulated.

As Captain Cespedosa underlines, the security threats of 2017 are very different from those in 2005: «In the area of hybrid or non-conventional warfare systems the Leopard 2E would require more passive systems than if you are developing in the high-intensity warfare arena.»

Adapting to the climate in Latvia will indeed be a challenge. For that, the Spanish soldiers followed a special training program in a military base in Zaragoza where the extreme winter conditions of the Baltic weather were simulated. Although the temperatures were certainly not as cold, the thermal sensation was close. The contingent also receives special uniforms for the colder side of the year.

In addition, Spanish soldiers took special driving lessons to handle the oftentimes difficult road conditions during winter. All the drivers had to complete a demanding course, to be able to drive vehicles of such size and weight.

The Spanish contingent, much like the rest of the other contingents, passed all the required tests and now all NATO battlegroups are fully operational.

The deployment left from Spain last June. Vigo, in northwestern Spain, was the city chosen for the departure. It took three days to ship all the materiel there from other parts of Spain, and two days to load the civilian ship used for the purpose.

Among the equipment were the Pizarro Infantry Combat Vehicles, the M-113 Heavy Duty Mortars and Spike car missiles, in addition to a number of containers carrying anything from computers to food rations for practice in the training camp. The journey lasted five days.

The arrival to Riga was uncomplicated thanks to the arrangements made by the Latvian authorities, who warned the local population about the arrival to avoid alarming those in the area. Once arrived in the Adaži military base, the logistics was supervised by a Latvian MOVCON Center (Movement Control). The Spanish contingent had flown in a commercial flight three days earlier.

The other major challenge, as indicated above, was that this overseas operation is the first in which Spain has deployed heavy equipment, which signals a powerful commitment with NATO, the Baltic states and global security.

Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel Wade Rutland is an experienced soldier with 23 years of service. He has served in multiple missions (in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) explained what «battle rhythm» is, a military term for the meetings that are held each week among different groups. «There are probably about fifty meetings happening each week at different levels.»

Needless to say, everyone speaks English. But to avoid misunderstandings and minimize ambiguity, NATO has the «AAP6», its own book of military terms. «When you say «block», every NATO nation has agreed on what that term means; the same when you say «support by fire»,» Rutland noted. Indeed, as I was attending a military practice exercise I realized to what extent conversations here are significantly shorter than those of civilians.

Before their deployment in Adaži, country contingents involved in the mission got together in Kingston, Canada. As Lieutenant-Colonel Rutland recalls; «We all went together in the last week of March, in what we called the leader development program.» All contingents had a series of briefings from NATO and Latvian experts.

«I have been part of a multinational brigade in Bosnia, I have been in ISAF in Afghanistan; those were groups of nations kind of working apart. This is the first time it has been done with so many involved,» Rutland describes.

The group spent a full day writing down on a whiteboard all the elements that would be essential to ensure proper communication and coordination, such as the different cultural norms, language and doctrines within the group, and then came up with joint solutions. «Today, if you were out in the field you would see an Italian company who was leading a Canadian company in the defensive,» he adds.

Read more news of Tallinn on our site.

If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Chairman of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and one of the owners of construction group Nordecon, Toomas Luman, finds that a prime ministerial candidate should first and foremost be able to answer the question of what will become of the demographic crisis in Estonia. The businessman sees controlled introduction of foreign labor as the solution. A digital construction cluster was created in Estonia a few years back to bring innovation to the s...
Last year saw 27,125 registered offenses, up 0.5 percent from the year before. Violent crime was up by 12 percent to 8,249 offenses. PHOTO: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire / Press Association Images / Scanpix Growth was biggest for domestic violence – the police launched criminal proceedings in 3,607 cases that constitutes an increase of more than one-third – annual growth of 37 percent from 2,632 cases in 2017. At the same time, reports of domestic violence we...
TALLINN - Ahead of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, tens of thousands of British citizens have chosen the citizenship of some other country, but only one Brit has recently chosen an Estonian citizenship. Spokespeople for the Ministry of the Interior told BNS that only one British citizen submitted an application for Estonian citizenship last year and the applicant was also granted the citizenship. Before that, no Brits had soug...
TALLINN - Experts from Finland, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands highlighted the importance of decentralization and granting local governments greater decision-making powers at a conference titled "Strong local government -- strong state?" in Tallinn on Wednesday.  All Nordic countries have chosen a model granting local governments significant decision-making powers, thus the central government does not prescribe how local governments are to fulfill the...
The language learning application Drops by game developer Planb Labs, established in Estonia by Hungarian founders, was named Google Play's best app of 2018. With the number of downloads surpassing 10 million, Drops was named Google's app of the year as the revenue of Planb Labs, a company registered in Estonia, increased fivefold, CNBC said. The developer's revenue grew from €335,000 in 2017 to €1.7 million in 2018. The company's shareholders include Hung...
TALLINN - The Estonian Health Board has banned the distribution of chlorine dioxide, also marketed as the Miracle Mineral Supplement (MMS), the A-component of an unused product, meaning the sodium chlorite solution, must be taken to a hazardous waste collection facility. Ester Opik, head of the Health Board's North regional department, said that the banning of the distribution of the product was caused by the fact that MMS, distributed as a cosmetics produ...
Nature cannot abide a vacancy, as the saying goes. If just one year ago, Estonia was battling the sale of MMS and the practice of giving it to children, a new “miracle cure” called Advanced TRS has appeared on the market now. Even though the make-up of the substance is different, the promise to cure autism and cleanse the body of heavy metals, which kind of extreme detox is accompanied by severe side-effects, sounds all too familiar. TRS is recommended to...
Allied NATO battalions will soon mark two years serving in the Baltics. They have worked better than expected but would need prepositioned heavy weaponry and a functional contingency plan in case of a crisis, a report by the International Center for Defense and Security (ICDS) finds. “We do not know how Russia would have acted had we not welcomed allies in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in 2017. I’m afraid they would have tested our resolve,” one of...
The time of filing income tax returns is nearly upon us. The new income tax system, in effect since last year, will obligate many women who went on maternity leave toward the end of the year to make additional income tax payments, while those who give birth in the middle or at the beginning of the year have no such obligation. What this means is that some women will owe the state simply for giving birth “at the wrong time”. Laura Roop, who went on maternit...