Individuals make up a functioning wartime unit
The conscripts who are discharged from service make up a functioning wartime unit – it is like an orchestra in which each of the instruments has its own important function. The composition of the unit is determined in February.
In an individualistic world, the army is an exception. Towards the end of the basic training phase, which is around now, people have been selected for the special tasks and leader roles. Individuals move on to the branch training phase to be trained for their own wartime task in order to form a unit that will in the end be mustered out to the reserve. To be able to work in an appropriate manner, the unit needs all the individuals that form it.
From the point of view of the brigade-level unit providing the training, it is a question of an order, manufacture and the delivery of the final product, in commercial terms. The branch determines what units are produced at any given time, the regional offices order conscripts to the brigade-level units in their call-ups, and the brigade-level units then train the ordered units and place them to the reserve. The young individuals who on the first day of their service arrive at the garrisons in civilian clothes, looking perhaps slightly uncertain, become a unit wearing a uniform and working towards a shared goal.
Corporal Luokkanen is building her unit as part of the whole
Corporal Suvi Luokkanen, who serves in Kainuu Brigade, did not look uncertain in the summer of 2020. Since childhood, she had wanted to do the military service and had participated in courses organised by the National Defence Training Association of Finland and the Women’s National Emergency Preparedness Association as well as in taken part in voluntary activities at the garrison canteen. Now she is training to become the leader of a unit of her own, one part of the large composition.
– When I was in secondary school and in upper secondary school, it was quite clear to me that I would come here. Kainuu Brigade was the obvious place. I have liked it here and this felt like a home garrison to me, says Luokkanen, who is from Kajaani and serves in the Mortar Company.
At the beginning of their service, not many of the conscripts have any specific wishes about their service task. They may not have thought about it – at least not from the point of view that the task might benefit them later in the world of work. When the branch training phase approaches and people are selected for the tasks, what counts is capability and willingness. However, the wishes and the implementation do not always match, and everyone in a well-functioning orchestra cannot play only the drums.
– I didn’t have a preferred unit, but I didn’t want to go to the Signal Company. In the Mortar Company, I applied to the tank platoon in the high-level readiness unit and to the NCO course for mortar training. I was not accepted to them and when someone was needed in the signals training, I then went on a course in the 2nd Artillery Battery. Now that I am starting the leadership phase, I have been happy that I was selected to the signals training. We have a good team and extremely good trainers. I enjoy it there and feel that it is the place for me.
When conscripts weigh their options, they consider the length of the service and the leadership training. If they do a short service time, it is not possible to get the leadership training. For Luokkanen, leadership training and the service time of just under one year was the obvious choice even before the service. It will be an advantage when applying for civilian jobs and in the world of work in general.
– For me, the example for leading came from my own leaders during my basic training phase. I received knowledge and skills from them and now that I am completing my leadership phase, I still remember the things my own corporals taught us and how they set an example. Of course, I try to pick the good examples. There are also things I don't do the same way, but in my own way and as we have been trained to do on the NCO course. Leadership means growing as a person all the time.
Luokkanen's plans for the time after the military service are still open and she is considering several education options.
– At the moment it feels good here and I will apply to become an enlisted soldier. Perhaps I can find work here that way. However, I haven’t seriously thought about the Military Academy. If I stay here as an enlisted soldier, perhaps I will find out if I should consider even that.
Reflecting on the obligation after the oath
Young people do not necessarily discuss between themselves the oath’s obligation and duty to participate in the military defence of Finland a real situation. Nor the fact that after the military service, participation in national defence is not voluntary, but women and men alike have the obligation until the end of the year they turn 60. Luokkanen has not discussed this with the other leaders, but with some of her friends.
– It will be our duty and we will do it because we have wanted this ourselves. We have been thinking about that especially with the other female conscripts. In a real situation, we will go there because we have completed this service.
– My own military oath was a touching moment: I realised that I was really doing it. It is great to be there now as the leader of my own conscripts and stand by them while they swear the oath. After I was made corporal, I have been thinking that if I am ordered to a superior position... That I have sworn that is such a moving thought.
However, after the discharge from service, Luokkanen will definitely be joining reservist activities. She is also interested in working as a trainer on the courses organised by the National Defence Training Association of Finland and the Women’s National Emergency Preparedness Association.
Still room for more women
The voluntary military service for women is very rewarding, but also demanding.
- I recommend applying to a voluntary military service for women for anyone who is interested. At the moment, I am living the best time of my life here and the remaining days seem to pass very quickly. The day we will be discharged from service will probably bring a tear to my eye. I hope I can still stay here as an enlisted soldier.
The possibility of a call-up event targeted at all women makes Luokkanen place her words carefully.
– I think a call-up event would be good for all women. That way, it would probably be possible to find those women who have never thought about doing the military service. Information about all the opportunities available here could then be distributed to them to increase their interest. I can see that there would be room for more for us here, although I don’t know what the resources at the Defence Forces are.