Cannock tank operator testing security of NATO’s eastern flank in Estonia

A tank operator from Cannock has been on military operations in the Baltic state of Estonia for an exercise to test the security of NATO’s eastern flank.

Corporal Alex Williams (29) a Tank Operator with the Royal Tank Regiment pictured here with Captain Jevgeni of the Estonian Defence Force during Exercise Hedgehog.
Corporal Alex Williams (29) a Tank Operator with the Royal Tank Regiment pictured here with Captain Jevgeni of the Estonian Defence Force during Exercise Hedgehog.

Corporal Alex Williams, 29, serves in the Royal Tank Regiment as a crew member aboard the British Army’s 64 tonne Challenger 2 main battle tank.

The sixteen Challenger 2s, affectionately referred to among the ranks as a ‘Challie’ or a ‘Charlie 2’, which formed the Royal Tank Regiment Battlegroup lent considerable weight to the exercise.

Codenamed Exercise Hedgehog, this was one of several major sets of multi-national military manoeuvres or exercises conducted by NATO countries and partner nations across eastern Europe designed to test the security of NATO’s eastern flank.

A Challenger main battle tank of Wiltshire based Royal Tank Regiment in action in southern Estonia whilst on Ex Hedgehog

The deterrence factor towards any aggressive neighbouring state who may covet the thought of rolling across the border was another major consideration in the planning of Hedgehog.

Estonia shares a border with Russia and there is a palpable heightened level of concern following the events in Ukraine.

Alex has been serving in Estonia with the Royal Tank Regiment Battle group since late last year as part of the permanent British military presence in the country.

He joined the Army back in 2014 when he left Cannock Chase High School driven by the prospect of gaining better life qualifications, meeting new friends and travel.

Alex said: "I came to Estonia last year and have learnt a new culture and the way they live and do things.

"It was hard during the winter months very cold, some days it got down to -20 degrees.

"The highlight for me though was getting my promotion to Corporal.

"I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting the capital Tallinn and to the university town of Tartu which was fascinating."

Exercise Hedgehog took place to the south of the country in the Valga and Voru regions along its border with Latvia where the primary military unit is the 2nd Infantry Brigade into which Alex’s unit, the Royal Tank Regiment Battlegroup was integrated.

The Commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Colonel Tarmo Metsa explained that a big part of the exercise is the mobilisation of the country’s Reserve Forces, getting them equipped and into the field as soon as possible.

He said: "I believe it is not only for the defence of Estonia, but for a collective defence in all Europe because of tensions in Ukraine has made some changes in this exercise, international commitment within this exercise has risen.

"The Royal Tank Regiment is fighting side by side with us, French are here to direct the air capabilities and so and so on.

"This year more than 15,000 people taking part and a third is international, so it is very important in terms of self-defence and within the collective defence.

"I can say only very good words towards the leadership and the unit because even on the first day of the battle they showed that they performed very well, very capable."

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News