Soldiers with the Estonian Contingent gathered for a flag-lowering ceremony aboard Camps Bastion and Leatherneck as they bid farewell to their coalition counterparts, May 9.
“Today is a special day, and it is a milestone that will be recognized for a very long time in Afghanistan as well as our home countries,” said Brigadier Gen. Daniel D. Yoo, Commander of Regional Command (Southwest), during the ceremony. “Afghan security forces have taken the lead and continue toward full security responsibility. It is important and symbolic of the commitment of the international force and our accomplishment as a coalition force. The Estonian military has been a steward partner in Afghanistan, especially with RC(SW).”
This was the 17th Estonian Contingent to deploy to Helmand province. During their deployment they operated under Task Force Helmand, and then directly under RC(SW) after TFH merged with the command.
“This is the largest and most difficult external mission that Estonia has taken part in since our independence,” said Sven Mikser, Estonia Minister of Defence, as he addressed the troops. “I am very proud of the Estonian soldiers who have served in Afghanistan over the years, and this occasion fills me with great humility. I admire your professionalism, dedication, courage and bravery. You have done a great job and I believe I can say that all Estonians take great pride in what you have done and achieved in Afghanistan.”
While working with Task Force Helmand, the Estonians’ mission was to aid in security force assistance within Helmand province. They worked closely with Afghan National Security Forces to provide security to the local populace and government.
“My soldiers did a good job,” said Lt. Col. Maidu Allikas, Estonian Contingent commander. “I’m proud of what we have done here. As Estonians, we understand the fight for independence. We understand what the locals face, their situation, and know how to support them. Our weapon is a tool to use when needed, but showing a good attitude to the locals creates the foundation for them to trust coalition forces. My soldiers had a great attitude and did an awesome job, doing the best work we can do.”
At the end of the ceremony, the Estonians lowered their flag symbolizing their time in Afghanistan had come to an end.
“The mission isn’t quiet complete, but ANSF are showing they are ready to take care of the security of their country and their people,” said Mikser. “We have come a very long way from when the country was ruled by the Taliban, and you have played a huge part in that. Afghanistan is not quiet there yet, and there are challenges which will remain for this country for years to come, but today Afghanistan is a safer place, and the world is a safer place.”