Enhanced defence cooperation has been in place since the summer of 2015 following a decision by the governments of Sweden and Finland. An important part of the cooperation is to conduct multinational exercises together, and a joint Swedish-Finnish army battalion is included in the Swedish brigade during the Trident Juncture exercise in Norway.
“Finland is the country we have the most defence cooperation with, and this exercise is an important part of the continued development between our countries”, explained Major General Anders Callert when he visited the battalion during the joint training in Älvdalen. The battalion consists of a Finnish rifle company from Björneborg's brigade and three companies from the 71st battalion from the South Skåne Regiment, P 7.
The battalion is a motorised rifle battalion whose strength is mobility and high capacity for detached combat in difficult terrain.
“The Finnish soldiers are motivated and well-trained. Together with our soldiers from 71st battalion we form a dangerous unit, no matter the opponent”, says battalion commander Andreas Ziegenfeldt.
EASY TO COOPERATE
The Swedish battalion and officers from the Finnish company have been holding joint staff exercises since the summer in order to find effective ways to operate together. Sweden and Finland use different command systems within the army, so the battalion uses coordination officers, Swedish officers are included in the Finnish company and Finnish officers are included in the battalion command.
“We have been working with the Finnish army in international operations for several years, but this is the first joint national defence exercise in a long time. But it's very easy to work with Finnish soldiers and officers”, continues battalion commander Andreas Ziegenfeldt
EMPLOYEES AND CONSCRIPTS TOGETHER
The Swedish soldiers are full-time employees and most have experience from major exercises or international operations. On the other hand, the Finnish company consists of conscripts who are volunteers and specially selected to be part of the Finnish “Rapid Reaction Force”, Finland's international emergency preparedness unit. The recruits will be demobilised in December and most will take part in international operations in Lebanon at the beginning of next year.
Finnish tank commander Kai Eskelinen has been able to meet some of the Swedish soldiers and they took the opportunity to compare equipment in order to see differences and similarities in how they accomplish missions.
“It feels very natural to work with Swedish soldiers. There is a good relationship between Finland and Sweden, we are like brothers”, says Kai Eskelinen.
“WE NEVER GIVE UP”
Niklas Sjögren has been employed as a soldier since 2008 and has been section commander for five years. He believes it will be a challenging exercise in the cold weather to meet a qualified mechanised opponent from NATO. He believes that the key will be to exploit the terrain to his advantage.
“This is what we have been training for, anti-tank fire mixed with mines and indirect fire. But our biggest strength is that we never give up, we are physically and mentally strong and we always give 100 per cent”, says section commander Niklas Sjögren from the 71sr company.
The battalion has been engaged in joint training exercises in Älvdalen for a number of days and is now in Norway under the command of the other brigade. On Wednesday, the exercise begins for real and the Swedish-Finnish battalion is ready for challenges.