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Northern Forest 24 Concluded the Spring Exercise Series of the Army

Publication date 31.5.2024 21.24 | Published in English on 31.5.2024 at 21.29
Press release
suomalaisia ja yhdysvaltalaisia sotilaita juttelemassa toisilleen maastossa

The international combat exercise held in Rovajärvi brought together nearly 6,500 soldiers from Finland, the United States, and Norway, as well as staff personnel from Sweden. The main objective of the exercise was to enhance the interoperability of the participating nations' ground forces in the challenging terrain conditions of Northern Finland.

The joint Nordic capability to receive allied troops in the High North was tested at the turn of April and May, when an American force of nearly 2,000 soldiers and equipment was deployed and concentrated in Finland through Norway and Sweden. The operation was carried out efficiently and safely. A two-week training period with the Americans was conducted in both Sodankylä and Rovajärvi. The training included environment training which was partly conducted by reservist trainers. Part of the troops also took part in a regional artillery live-fire exercise preceding the combat exercise. "The American professional soldiers demonstrated exemplary perseverance and attitude at all stages. Based on long-term cooperation, the professional soldiers from Norway were already familiar with the area and terrain utilization, which was evident from the start. However, for their conscripts, the training opportunity was unique," says the exercise director, Colonel Ari Lehmuslehti.

Interoperability was Developed on All Levels

The cooperation between soldiers from different countries went smoothly throughout the exercise, and all parties got to learn new things. The American soldiers gained valuable knowledge of basic northern combat methods, which include specific ways of using the roads, moving off the roads, and utilizing the terrain. For our American allies, many everyday things for northern soldiers were new, with the most memorable probably being the rubber boots familiar from the environment training. Learning the operational methods characteristic for the area is important, as the terrain and weather conditions of Northern Finland are demanding and require thorough familiarization from Finnish troops as well. At the staff level, for example, common processes, command systems, and operating procedures have been standardized during the spring. "Interoperability can be assessed in many ways, but ultimately it is about cooperation and trust between people. In the preparation and execution of a demanding exercise campaign, this foundation has been crucial in order to succeed," says the commander of the Kainuu Brigade, Brigadier General Ari Laaksonen.

Battles Around the Clock

The three-week training and exercise phase culminated in a week-long combat exercise phase. Northern Forest 24 was a freely developing exercise, in which the scenario had a multinational division led by the Kainuu Brigade on the blue side. On the red side, the opposing force was a multinational brigade combat team led by the Jaeger Brigade. In addition to the Kainuu Brigade and the Jaeger Brigade, the exercise troops included units from the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Brigade, the Norwegian Army's Finnmark Land Command, the Utti Jaeger Regiment, and the Lapland Border Guard. In a freely developing exercise, the leaders play a significant role in planning operations and making decisions. This approach allows for creativity and flexibility, as battles are fought continuously around the clock as situations change. Situations change rapidly, and leaders must be able to make decisions in real-time, which enhances their leadership skills and ability to respond to changing conditions. This procedure also serves the conscript leaders, as for many of those conducting their conscription service, Northern Forest 24 was the last and most challenging exercise before joining the reserves.

Allied Vehicles Enable New Ways of Operating

Helicopters played a particularly central role in the combat exercise, as they enabled a new way of operating in the area. During the exercise, they were used diversely for air assaults, evacuations, and logistical tasks. The combat phase of the exercise began with a battalion-sized air assault, utilizing the alliance's shared airlift capability. Finnish, American, and Norwegian troops were transported to the target area using not only the NH90 military helicopters of the Utti Jaeger Regiment but also the allies' UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters. The versatile use of helicopters allowed for more flexible and faster movements, enhancing the efficiency and safety of operations.

Northern Forest 24 exercise concluded the Army's spring exercise series. Together with our allies, we trained to defend NATO's northern part in various exercises, and now we can state that our interoperability is better than ever before. The importance of joint training cannot be overstated; joint operations can only be learned by operating together.

"We thank everyone who participated in the exercise series for your work towards a common goal and the conscripts and reservists for their excellent performance in the exercise. We are stronger together." - Commander of the Kainuu Brigade, Brigadier General Ari Laaksonen, and Exercise Director, Colonel Ari Lehmuslehti.