Blog of the Commander of the Finnish Army, Major General Petri Hulkko
Practice makes perfect – Usus magister est optimus
Practical wisdom draws from universally accepted truths, such long-held and acknowledged notions that tend to go unquestioned. Take, for instance, the phrase from a speech by Marcus Tullius Cicero dating back to the Antiquity: “Usus magister est optimus”, “practice makes perfect”. Case in point.
Now, whether to opt for ‘training’ or ‘education’? In a military setting, when describing soldiers’ learning, some may take issue if resorting to the term training instead of education. The argument is that dogs undertake training whereas human beings are educated. Either way, both training and education are oriented towards achieving tangible learning results. In fact, as an owner and handler of a search and rescue dog, I know for sure that that well-implemented dog training sets an example for military training as well: drilling with a high number of repetitions, offering plenty of praise for achievement and never punishing for failing. This is how learning practical skills always takes place. Offering praise for successful performance increases the willingness to continue learning more. And instances of failing never merit punishment in any context. Rather, failing serves as a means to learn further: "Per aspera ad astra", "through hardships to the stars".
A prime example of a substantial military training exercise, the Uusimaa 17 exercise comprises training that combines theory with practice and hones troops into skilled masters. The currently implemented training cycle of the Finnish Defence Forces is designed to enable organizing substantial exercises cost-effectively both in the beginning of the summer season and again at the start of the winter. Catering for undertaking training in versatile conditions, the timing of the former is characterised by the dominance of the polar day, or midnight sun, and the latter by its opposite, the polar night twilight, with both sustaining capabilities’ training in extreme conditions.
It is only these types of major exercises that provide the setting for training cooperation between branches, services and authorities. This is particularly pronounced in the current security environment that remains subject to rapid changes. The sum of the capabilities of a number of actors always equals more than the mere number of individuals combined. As regards skilled maneuvering, team playing becomes decisive in allowing skilled individuals to utilise their competence to the highest degree.
Furthermore, the Uusimaa 17 exercise and other exercises of its ilk offer an optimal and solid basis for joint learning in the utilisation of the Finnish Defence Forces’ capabilities. The three services, the Finnish Army, Navy and Air Force utilise capabilities while being supported by the capabilities of the Finnish Defence Forces. This results in drilling repetitions, with instances of failing also surfacing to enable learning from these mistakes. This equals the formula for training winners to defend this country for the bicentennial of its independence as well.
As the centenary anniversary of Finland’s independence dawns, a soldier knows no greater celebration than being able to train defending this country. This guarantees us all a safe and secure future in this independent country, Finland.
Major General Petri Hulkko
Commander of the Finnish Army