The Erna Raid
The Erna Raid is one of the world's longest and most difficult international military-sporting competitions, which has been held for more than ten years. It belongs in a category of rather unique international events that are organized for demonstrating and comparing military skills, for instance, the International Mönchengladbach Military Competition in Germany, the Swiss Raid Commando in Switzerland and the Lombardia International Military Patrol Competition in Italy.
The objectives of the competition are to determine the best team among all the participating competitors. They must be able to perform demanding military tasks under great physical and mental stress. The ultimate aim is to promote and develop international military co-operation and friendship.
This year, the Erna Raid is taking place on 5-11 August, with 28 teams from 10 countries participating. Besides Estonia’s various Defence Forces, Defence League, Officers’ Reserve, Defence Forces Headquarters, Military Academy and Border Guard teams, Norway and Finland are both represented by two teams. Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and, as always, the United States are also participating.
The head referee is the U.S. Army attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Mark E. Bergeson, and the chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel Jaak Kallak from Sweden.
The Erna competitions provide an opportunity for the teams to apply their skills in a simulated enemy environment that has been made as realistic as possible. The teams have to cross minefields as well as bridge water obstacles. They must operate in a tactically proper manner, be well camouflaged, and use hidden paths so as to avoid contact with the simulated enemy. Movement along existing roads is prohibited, and these may only be crossed. The competitors move, on foot, along trails as individual reconnaissance/rescue groups, making use of the various features of the landscape to hide from the simulated enemy.
The Erna Raid commemorates the actions of the Erna long-range reconnaissance group in the summer of 1941. The Erna group, consisting of Estonian volunteers, had participated in the Finnish-Russian Winter War of 1939-1940, helping their Finnish “cousins” to fight against Soviet aggression. The members of this reconnaissance unit had sworn allegiance to Finland and its military commander, General Mannerheim. Despite German pressure, they refused to swear allegiance to Hitler, and were not part of the Nazi armed forces. In the summer of 1941, the Erna reconnaissance group landed behind Soviet lines on the northern coast of Estonia. At the end of July they held a fierce battle against numerically superior Soviet forces, in the process helping thousands of local civilians to avoid falling victim to Soviet persecution.
The first Erna Raid was held in the summer of 1993 so as to commemorate that historical unit and its courageous activities. The participants trekked along the same route as the original Erna unit, and founded the military sports club Erna. And the first Erna competition was held the next summer. In 1995, the event became international, and, over the years, elite military personnel from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Rumania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and even China have participated.
More detailed information about the Erna Raid competition can be obtained from the web page www.erna.ee and about history of Erna Group http://www.erna.ee/en/?Erna_History/Birth_of_the_ERNA-organization