Stories of the Finnish Arctic Expertise
cropattu sodankylä.jpg

Honing military skills in winter conditions

A group of Finnish, U.S. and Estonian military personnel are testing their combat capability and skills in harsh Arctic conditions in Sodankylä.

The Cold Weather Operations Basic Course 2019 is designed to instruct military trainers in the skills required to conduct military operations in cold and snowy conditions.

In addition to personnel of the Finnish Defence Forces and the Border Guard, also reservists and several U.S. and Estonian soldiers are attending.

The course is organised by the Jaeger Brigade. Based in Sodankylä, it is the northernmost brigade-level unit of the Finnish Defence Forces and specialises in Arctic training and air defence.

The participation of US military trainers is part of a bilateral training co-operation between the armed forces, where countries have the opportunity to send trainers to the national courses of another country. For the first time, there are also Estonian military trainers taking part.

Course leader, Captain Mikael Aikio promises that none of the participants will suffer frostbite.

“We concentrate on sustaining combat capability in winter conditions, winter clothing included. We practice skiing and related combat skills, which basically means shooting while on skis”, he explains.

“We do quite simple things, but in harsh Arctic conditions. Winter combat skills are something that we are good at here in the north.”

All the course participants are trainers in their own units, and the idea is that they will take the things that they find useful and pass them on to their men.

The course is quite an experience. During the first phase of the course, participants have been learning the basics of winter warfare and survival skills related to maintaining their ability to operate. During the last few days of the course, the participants will try out their newfound skills in practice.

"We spend ten days mostly outside, and then test everything we have learned in an exercise. We will spend nights in a tent and snow shelters and one night we will ski practically through the night”, Captain Mikael Aikio says.

“It will not necessarily be fun, if the temperature drops to -30 degrees Centigrade. But afterwards everyone will be proud of what they have achieved”.

Photo © Finnish Defence Forces, Joonas Mattila

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