By Army Spc. Hubert Delany, U.S. Army
TAPA, Estonia -- Among the things that stand out to many who visit the training area here are the frigid temperatures.
Given this challenge, Soldiers with the 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion tested their mettle during a series of training events March 6 - 14.
Making it through these challenges required each soldier to trust the training they'd completed up to this point in their deployment to Europe. It also required them to depend on and trust their NATO allies.
"This is one of the most tightly knit teams I've seen in my 26 years in the Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Vedros, the senior enlisted member of the 82nd BEB.
Within hours of an order to move to the Baltics, Vedros and his men packed their gear and moved more than a thousand miles from Grafenwoehr, Germany, to a location previously unknown to most of them.
"These men have done a terrific job," said Vedros, while reminiscing of previous deployments and Army experiences. "It was like watching an 82nd Airborne Division rapid deployment. Before anybody knew it, these Soldiers were coming to Estonia loaded up and ready to go, and our NATO allies knew exactly what to do when we sent them."
Upon arrival in Estonia, U.S. troops worked with the Estonian, British, Canadian, and Danish armies to establish and solidify a mutually-beneficial training schedule. Among the first training events lined up for the Americans were cold-water immersion drills with the British Army's 1st Royal Welsh Battalion. This was followed by other training events with the Canadian Royal 22nd Regiment and the Danish Guard Hussars Regiment.
The goal for all the training is to build upon previously-established relations between the U.S. and NATO allies, said Army Lt. Col. Jesse Curry, the 82nd BEB commander.
Additionally, Curry wanted to ensure that his unit stands ready to act within a moment's notice. His unit is in Europe to support Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. Army Europe effort to deter aggression in the region.
"Our brigade is here to show that we can move and project power across all of Europe," Curry said. "When you can take an element from anywhere in Europe and push them like we have to the most forward point within NATO, it sends a tremendous message. That we can, and absolutely have the capability, to defend our NATO allies … and to be lethal if necessary."
To close out their time in Estonia, the U.S. soldiers provided chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training to the Estonian army's 1st Infantry Brigade.
Army Spc. Dewight Young, a CBRN specialist with the 82nd BEB, participated throughout the weeklong mission and said he believes that what his fellow soldiers completed in Estonia will have a lasting, positive impact.
"I've never worked with so many people from so many different countries before, but I am glad we did," Young said. "It's not just Americans, but English, Danish, Estonian and everyone else, working together to do something good in the world."