The women are not here to try

The Headquarters Support and Signal Battalion saw two female conscripts start alongside boys last week. Slender Mirjam Petti(27)was hard to spot among roughly one hundred young men who had assembled in the parking lot of the Defense Resources Board on Thursday.

The roughly 160 new conscripts could be categorized into two groups after a brief visual observation: those who can’t wait to board the bus and those whose countenances hardly betraysexcitement. Officials even have to ask several red-eyed young men whether they are okay - writes postimees.ee

However, Mirjam Petti’s determined gaze leaves no doubt: she knows why she’s there.

«My mother did not like the idea. She believes compulsory military service is for men, but my father and grandparents were very supportive,» Petti says.

Only one tenth or 3,400 of roughly 36,000 persons liable to national defense obligation became conscripts last year. The rest did not make the cut for various reasons, while 244 men simply didn’t show up on the day.

«That was one reason I am here in this parking lot today – but not the only one,» Petti says minutes before boarding the bus.

The journalists are not permittedon the busas the board’s PR chief, Anne Osvet, says the ride gives conscripts time to think.

Upon arrival, conscripts are welcomed by a Defense Forces member whose tone of voice comes as a shock to the young civilians.

«The yelling started as soon as I stepped off the bus. It got me weak at the knees for a second,»says the battalion’s first female conscript Petti.

The men later explain to her that it is not yelling but simply talking in a loud voice.

The young people are told to line up before a building as their bags are checked for prohibited articles. The conscripts are shown to their barracks next. The second female conscript to serve time at theHeadquarters Support and Signal Battalionthis year, Maria-Liisa Remets, arrives from Tartu at around this time.

The girlsdo not havea separate room. They will spend the next 11 months in the same room as 20 young men. «A corner with some lockers for walls is good enough; a separate room would lead to a communication breakdown,» Petti says.

Second Lieutenant at the Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion Sander Mändoja says that there have not been any serious conflicts between men and women in the Defense Forces to the best of his knowledge. «Conscripts have the right to turn directly to battalion commanders via chief inspectors. The atmosphere is comradely. I have not heard of any romantic engagements either,» Mändoja says.

«My legs wereshaking,and I was afraid at first, but I’ve already made some friends,» says Maria-Liisa Remets who arrived last. She adds that she was given plenty of surprised looks on the way to the battalion. «When I boarded the bus, some of the guys were like: «wow, a woman»,»Remets says. «My brother served here last year, and when he came home in his uniform the first time, I thought I want to do this.»

Remets joined the Defense Forces with a clear career plan.

«I want to becomephysicallystronger here to enroll at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences later,» she says.

Mirjam Petti says that while women are weaker than men, physically, her biggest fear is cold weather.

2nd Lt. Mändoja says that hikes that last for five or six days are tough on both men and women.

«However, women are more highly motivated on average. They come here voluntarily and with a clear goal. And they often fight harder than men on long hikes,» Mändoja says.

Joining the military was along-standing dream for Mirjam Petti, and even though women are allowed to change their minds after 90 days, Petti promises to see her training through. «I did not come here to try,»she says.

Life in the armed forces seems simple: just do as you’re told, and everything will be fine. Having put down their bags and visited the doctor, conscripts are left waiting for their gear.

«The thing about waiting is that we’ll become veritable experts at it in 11 month,» conscripts of the battalion’s information center say. They believe the physical aspect of Defense Forces training might be the toughest part for girls. «They will be given the same 40-kg gear as boys, but I guess you get used to it,»the young men say.

The headquarters and signal battalion is just the place for software developer Petti.

«I like the possibilities that will be open to me after military service. Perhaps I want to tie my work to the defense sector in the future.»

Women who volunteer for military service often see themselves pursuing a career with the armed forces.

«A woman who joined the Kuperjanov battalion in July had medical education. She wants to be trained as a company medic,» 2nd Lt. Mändoja says.

The conscripts spend the rest of the day walking the grounds quietly, obeyingorders without hesitation andnot talking toeach other much; however, the girls, who find themselves at the center of attention, stick together.

«They are all a little frightful at first – it is a new environment for them, but they will open up as the days pass,»says commander of the information center Eero Salmann.

Read more news of Tallinn on our site.

postimees.ee
DefenseResourcesBoard TheHeadquartersSupport
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

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Politics
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...
Society
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...