A major international military exercise began in Sodankylä, Finnish Lapland, on Wednesday. About 100 foreign soldiers are taking part in manoeuvres in Sodankylä, along with several Norwegian tanks.
The Riekko 19 field training exercise, named after the willow grouse and led by the Jaeger Brigade, is being held in the Kyläjärvi–Lintuselkä–Mellankangas area through 24 May, with a two-day break over next weekend. It's part of the larger Bold Quest event being held in various parts of Finland over the next couple of weeks.
Taking part in the Sodankylä manoeuvres are about 800 people and 200 vehicles. Most of the troops are from the Finnish Defence Forces' Jaeger Brigade and Kainuu Brigade. Also participating are roughly 100 soldiers from the US and Norway, as well as four Norwegian CV90 combat tanks.
"From the US, there are around 70 people from a National Guard Engineer Company and around 10 Marines, along with a Norwegian infantry fighting vehicle detachments of about 20 people," says Lieutenant Colonel Petri Sipilä from the Jaeger Brigade, who is leading the Riekko 19 field training exercise.
Sipilä explains that the first three days of the event will include basic exercises such as testing communications equipment and practising the use of English. Next week's schedule includes a five-day combat exercise.
Riekko 19 is part of a larger series of US-led international military cooperation events known as Bold Quest, launched in 2003. The Finnish Army has taken part in Bold Quest events abroad on a limited scale since 2010, when it was held in Norway. This is the first time one has been held on Finnish soil, and only the third time it has been outside of the US.
"The foreign troops have brought equipment in order to test the compatibility of our C5 [Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Counter-intelligence] systems," Sipilä says.
Sodankylä is the main venue for the Bold Quest event, but the Defence Staff headquarters has not revealed how many people have come to the municipality for the event.
Sodankylä, with a population of just over 8,000, is in central Lapland, nearly 1,000 km north of the capital Helsinki.
Bold Quest operations will also be held in Rovajärvi and Rovaniemi in Lapland as well as Rissala airfield in central Finland and the southern towns of Riihimäki and Turku. Altogether some 2,200 people are participating, including some 700 Finns. Staff from 14 countries are involved.
Most of the countries in the Bold Quest coalition are in North America and Europe, but it also includes Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates.