My national service was in 1996-96. Service time was 1 year, new wave of recruits came in every 3 months. Basic train 3 months, then assinging to subunit and then addit. train. and service. I was at Single Signals Batallion, signals coy, RTO.
Some background at first
EDF was back then bit different from other forces mentioned here. Restored in 1992, it was start from scratch manpower- and equipmentwise
Officers came from ´´30-day wonders´´-courses, ex-sov. Army (incl. https://en.wikipedia...i/Ants_Laaneots ) and some others , and from west, (most prominent https://en.wikipedia...ksander_Einseln ). All this resulted in lot of friction both in systems and in personalities. At the same time the country was falling into huge recess, russian troops were still in till autumn of 1994, our reput. was questionable, at the same time there were wars in former yugo, and caucasus hence relatively little support from outside to us. Major difference was finland that started training officers in their schools and germany who donated equipment for border guard and some east germ. stuff like trucks.
Overall the western orientation won and has been paying off in longer term view, while latvia and lithuania went short-term solutin and accepted more former sov. personnel. That meant little bit more capable force in short term, but they afaik never fully got rid of sov.style discipline problems, which resulted in loosing conscription after joining NATO.
Thanks to Sov. Army memories the reputation of EDF was rather low at first, not many wanting to serve in military if all reference one could draw was from their own/dad´s/brother´s experiences in Red Army, funding was low. Low as in future chancellor of MOD at his first day of work had an assignment to convert some kilograms of wool someone had donated to EDF, into something valuable to military....
Some of the equipment came from sov.troops, both in legal and illegal ways (like Defence League reportedly loosing one engineering equipment train on some branch road, i don´t know if it´s true, but at least i saw a MDK-2 ditch-digger in one inf. Btl. Motorpool), later bits and pieces from romania and china (AK-s, RPG-s), finland donated some Mosin rifles . then htere was the israeli weapons deal, when we bought aroughly light inf. Brig. equipment plus some more (galils,negev LMGs,Mapats ATGMs, comms, mortars , body armor- some of it not good buy, like MAPATS and Negev, rest OK or even much beloved, like galil) . barracks-infrastructure was in former sov. bases, with variyng level of habitability , at least on batallion had to do with 3 sinks for 3 companies at my time, plus guarding some of it/cleaning-up/ was really manpower-intensive.
Vehicles in my unit was mostly ex-sov.usual UAZ, Gaz-66, Zil-131, ex GDR Robur (gadawful frikkin trabant of trucks),plus chinese UAZ-clone, WW2 era Dodge ambulance and CUCV´s
My service started in training company, looking back it was all rather basic. First week was familiarisation, no punishments were assigned, all that changed on second week. Lots of physical activities, drill, regulations. Ombudsman (HQ major) visited us on end of first month, meeting was just us, no segeants. He explained his duties, rights and our rights , asked for complaints. There was of course right to turn to him personally or to go through your superiors, but he also made rather clear that it´s not a good idea to waste his time with trivialities .´´..though of course you have the right to do it´´. As we heard later his reputation was excellent and apparently he stepped on some toes if someone got carried away, but still managed to be balanced with couple dozen recruits complaints each year.
Drill sergeants – all the squad leaders were also recruits like us,junior NCO material (ca. 10% in our case) was chosen at the end of basic 3 months, they went to NCO school. Dropping out rate was at least 1/3 IIRC, so when guys from my wave came back with 7 junior sergeants and one corporal out of 8 guys who went, it was a minor miracle. Best new nco´s went to train. company, rest to subunits above squad level , all nco´s were pros., with the exeption of supply clerk.
At the end of 2.month of basic train. we also had guard duty, since the rest of batallion went to week-long field ex.. guard duty was 24hrs, beginning 17.00 evening and ending between 17-18.00 next evening when you came back to unit, turned in rifle and equipment etc. Since 3 hours before guard duty was for sleeping and when you came back, that day´s activities were done, it was welcome change. Saturdays were for barracks cleaning, afternoon was free. Sunday was free, TV, reading, gym,cinema (for non-basic train. guys), sauna. Visitors 1hr. on Sundays during basic, after that unlimited on Sundays, and on business days+ saturday 18.00-21.00
Daily plan was 6.00 wake up, then physical 20-30 min. (or over hour during basic), or rarely in winter during storms, snow ploughing. After hygiene, inspection, breakfast. Lessons (regulations, technical stuff, drills), lunch, then field lessons (tactics, or later signals equipm. in our case) , 17-18 physical train, 18-19 dinner. Free time, then 21.00 formation, hymn. 22.00 bed. Except for the ones on soem punishment/correctional duty
Only new year´s eve was free for everybody who was not in duty, provided they return sober and by morning formation time.
After basic there were few night ´´alarms´´ since company commander was firm believer of good night sleep, but during basic we had plenty, incl. ´´fire drill´´ that had us evacuate all train. company equipment (except wardrobes) to drill ground 200m away, where we had to set it all up exectly to comapny ground plan, incl. beds , us in those beds, company orderly on his desk, houseplants and shit. Since it was warm septemeber night (exactly 19 years ago!) it was all more fun than pain. Though that tradition ended with next wave after us, since they took it all too ´´seriously ´´ and sent squad leaders room equipment, beds and all, through window. A closed window. Since it was in mid-december, the sergeants were not really amused
Food was bad in my unit, we were the last unit in EDF not to have our own kitchen, but brought in stuff from sports school. At field food was much better, though we had occasionally the infamous Bundeswehr MRE-s .
Discipline – inter-people relations were basicly not too bad, one can´t be really a cunt to another if there is only 1,3 million people in the land and your reputation will find you again. Hazing was not an issue, since it would resulted in prisons term longer than your service year, or at best couple weeks at garrison cellar.
I had additional help, since my drill sergeant was my classmate, who had volunteered 6 months before me. We had not more easy life, but he explained to me in private some things and reasonings behind the things that other squads-platoons had to figure out themselves. Still he was prick enough to stick a bayonet to rifle and run ast he last man during obstacle course if we were not doing fast enough.
Biggest problem was russians- they were most part less motivated,disciplined, many had language issues, couple attitude issues too. they made up about 25% of our unit, one third of these should have sent home after the end of first week. Political correctness and ´´they´ll learn the language in service´´ was dumb policy in longer term. OTOH a half of the rest were really OK guys.
Weapons training was mainly Galil , iirc 30 shots during train. + familiarisation with chinese AK (3 rds.) + familiarisation with PM (also 3rds./25m., which i aced to everybody´s surprise, incl. mine).
Unfortunately i cannot comment much on shooting since my glasses broke in overcrowded truck during one shoot. Exercise and even i did 2 applications for replacements , i never got these. So every next shooting exercise i just shot at wherever i wanted. Well, i could still see targets at 100m. , vaguely, but 200 and 300 m . was hopeless, esp. Night. On the other hand i was good to have, since my neighbour once had 17 hits on his target, out of 10 rounds issued. Mine was clean.
Basic train had 2 week-long field exercises – squad tact., physical, orient., digging, night marches in swamps. First one was in 30c heat in july and we camped in sand quarry .we had 2-3 litres of water per day, so even teethbrushing was optional choice. Other was in mellow 20c and really enjoyable, we spent it former sov. border guard NCO train. school territory near sea
The end of basic was ´´soldier´s exam´´ -regulations, tests, + 60km orient. march in 24hrs. (3men teams in full equipment and 1 map without scale) We did it in 20 hrs., across swamps etc, got bit lost , so did 10+km extra. Then the oath, after that weekend off, that was my first time out of gate alone in 3 months.
Then regular service in signals company, training on our equipment, guard dut. Every 3 months one wave left to civil life and a new one came from basic. I ended in signals coy, radio platoon , RTO. Other platoons were wire comms and tech. Platoon (generators mainly). I had GAZ-66 R142 that lihtuanians had ´´liberated´´ or ´´bought´´ or bought from russian army , estonia bought some 5 from them, then we had ex-gdr IFA W50 and Zil-131´s. manpack TADIRAN uhf and vhf encrypted comms that we were told to be the best amongst neighbouring countries . back then it was probably true. Unfortunatley we did not take the full options and later they suffered from our penny-pinching (batteries!)
Big part of service was guard duty, that our btl. Had in our own unit, but our guard company also had MOD, army HQ and signals coy had Defence League HQ. I trried to get as much that posting if possible, we had access to their library, radio, tv.
Later it was usual to have a weekend off once in month or two months, we had 2 weeks of vacation during the service. It was good idea to be a blood donor, since that gave you a day off per donation. I ended it having last 5 days off, then returing to btl. to return my stuff, collect the signatures and go back to civvie street. Pay was iirc 8 eur/month, after becoming Cpl. (pfc really), addit. 2 eur. That went mostly for cigarettes. Though after ending, state paid us one average monthly salary iirc, that was around 100 eur. Back then. Since i had almost no wardrobe left that would fit me, it was really welcome.
My biggest ´´adventure´´ was a PfP exercise in latvia, adazi. Baltic common engineer exercise, est. had composite sapper coy. I was coy commander´s RTO
Overall discipline was worse in earlier years, former workmate was in inf. Btl. where a soldier got drunk, started shooting at air and threatening people. Btl. commander, later CoS of EDF , then capt., now Gen.(ret.)Kert walked up to him, ordered to drop the gun, when refused , pulled pistol and put bullet in guys head. That was end discipline issues at that batallion.
My younger brothers went to serve 5 years after me, when NATO-preparations were in ful swing. As i understand their era was physically less demanding, but way, way better in tactics. Big part of this was that there was a united military education system.
Around 2006-7 estonia adopted new system of service time 9 months for ordinary guys and 11 months for NCO´s and drivers, who are pre-selected from draft by tests. Part of these NCO´s can get addit. train. to become ´´aspirants´, wartime ensigns. The whole system is bit mystery to me and since i´ve been typing amost 4 hours and it´s 00.38, i´llleave it here.
Systemis said to be based on finland and is as much as i can tell excellent for peacetime. Guys go in and a whole batallion comes out at spring. But the minus of this is that EDF is fighting –capable at march-till-june, other times it´s dependent on call-up of reserves. As this springs largest peacetime ex ´´hedgehog 2015´´ showed , this works, if given enough time.