Finland has an effective and competent army
Major General Karl Engelbrektson, commander of the Swedish Army, visited Kaakko 19 -main military exercise. He is pleased with the cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish armies and thinks Finland has a very good operational capability.
- Cooperation between Finnish and Swedish armies is very good, it is very fruitful and it is very important in many dimensions from the political level, down to the tactical. It is the most important cooperation for Swedish military. And Army to Army we have come a very long way, says Major General Engelbrektson.
Engelbrektson and commander of the Finnish Army, Lieutenant General Petri Hulkko, meet each other and talk to each other at least every month, sometimes more often. When Finnish and Swedish armies have exercises it’s more common than not that countries invite troops to each other and formally plan to support each other the best way they can if so needed.
Army Commanders from Sweden (Major General Karl Engelbrektson) and Finland (Lieutenant General Petri Hulkko) met during the exercise Kaakko 19.
Important part of the cooperation is also done unit-to-unit.
- The real stuff happens on the regimental level, battalion level, and between the service branches, especially when it comes to artillery exercises. We also try to harmonize and coordinate when it comes to future investments in the armies. I’m also looking forward to have Swedish personnel in Finland and Finnish personnel in the Swedish staff so that is also a next step.
National defence back in centre
Engelbrektson describes the status of Swedish army as developing.
- We are in a very interesting, changing point. We came from a history where we were very much like you are now. Conscript based, focused on our national defence, huge numbers, and a mobilized army. That was almost given up and we focused on international missions, and then we got a professional force.
- Since 2015 we changed and reintroduced a partial conscription. We need to grow in numbers and we are focusing in national defence. You can say that we invented the total defence concept, you took it onboard and developed it, we almost abandoned it and now we are bringing it back from you, Major General Engelbrektson laughs.
The Swedish army is recognized again as necessary for national defence and it is getting back to brigade structure within a division structure. It is important in the international context because one needs to have the right structure in order to be able to give support and to receive support. One cannot only send batallions to each other, one need to send brigades.
Finland never gave up a system with combined arms brigades with all the branches put under a right structure. That is needs also in Sweden.
The Finnish clear command structure is another thing Engelbrektson would like to import to Swedish army. Finland is a very good reference point on how an army is structured.
Competent conscripts and reservists
Even though Finland has kept its conscript army it has also been able to maintain high readiness. Engelbrektson is impressed especially of the rather swift change that Finland has done in order to be producing troops with very high readiness as well as keeping conscription as baseline for the army.
Kaakko 19 is the main military exercise of the Finnish Defence Forces. As commander of the Swedish Army Engelbrektson has a clear view of the Finnish conscripts, he was going to meet:
- I will see proud soldiers that know what they are doing and who have good leadership. I will again see that you have a training system that produces forces in very short time and they know what to do. Everything from a truck driver to a tank crew to air defence artillery and all of that.
- Every time I’m impressed of the low number of active officers been able to command and lead units that you have trained in big numbers. You have every year several big exercises, which mean that officers are able to plan and conduct them. That is also a skill that not all countries have and is good in international context.
Kaakko 19 -exercise has not only conscripts but also 3200 reservists in training. According to Engelbrektson, it is very important. The Finnish way to call reservist in arms even twice a year is formidable.
- To be a reservist is part of Finnish society and it is part of Finnish culture, Major General Engelbrektson summarises at the end.