it just sucks. If you're a regular trooper you'll get away with only six months of training, but if you want to gain some ranks, you'll have to stay for a whole year in the bloody place. The first two months are sheer hell as you'll have to march all around the base with tons of stuff in your backpack. After that you'll start learning the stuff you are supposed to do during the war. Would be nice if it worked, but the whole service is full of constant squabbling and you just generally sit in a wet forest holding your bladder and try not to piss your pants while guarding some meaningless junk.

The RK-62 is a piece of crap compared to the weapons used by Finns during WW2 and you're just glad when your military service is over. Unless you happen to be a lunatic like me and write a diary about those horrible experiences alongside with a few photos.

Some of the Wolf's War Memoirs
"Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria mori"

I might as well list some things that happened to me.

I was in a mortar company of Kainuu Brigade for 6 months. I was trained primarily for communications service; that meant I could play with radios and phones and weird machinery for sending encrypted messages...

The training had three phases. The first was the recruit phase in which we learned how to "shut up and soldier" to quote Heinlein. This was common for everyone, including the paper warriors and other disrespectable lifeforms.

"Whistling noise!" (everyone shouts "Incoming!" and dive for cover) "That shell always comes to the place where I'm standing at. I'll die every time. That's fun." - one of our corporals

"Today you will learn how to extinguish a man who is on fire - without the fire, because infortunately we didn't get that napalm..." - an instructor

Funniest thing: A platoonful of men walking through a divinely beautiful, pure, clean Finnish nature (gotta love it)... wearing gas masks and rain capes. Didn't exactly fit into my idea of fallout or gas attack...

The second phase was the special training phase. First was the hell with 80mm mortars. Which meant, we took those things appart and carried them around, and tried to point at something with them. (Never got to shoot with them...) This was hell for me. I'm not used to carry things that weigh 20 kg...

The second part was the thing with the 120mm mortars. This was plausible. No one can carry things that weight half a ton, so we just needed to prepare the posts while the things were pulled around with trucks.

My most memorable events of this period was the visit of Norwegian cadets.

Okay, when we left, it had been raining over the night, and all the water from the truck roof came on me! It was... a cold morning...

Anyway, I was on the ammunition group at that time, so my part in that demo was to run and dive into the defence posts on the signal. So, we did. "KÄKI!" (ran into the posts) Then, one of the cadets came and photographed us. Interesting...

Well, I saw bunch of the rifle company folks emerging from the misty autumn forest... it was a scene that just craved to be filmed and placed to a war movie of some sort.

(I was looking out from window much later after this demo day, and a roommate asked...) "So, Lankinen, do you feel that out there in the dark the forces of darkness are after you? Do you hear them calling you?" (Me:) "'Military police! Don't move! Show your hands! Show your hands!'" (That was what the nearby-demoing MPs were shouting all the time =)

Well, we get more specialized after that. We learned how to use the communications equipment. A troublemaker by the name of Koskela used to call me "laku-Lankinen", in hopes of getting me to the cable squad (as opposed to the squad that puts up the command post). I, on the other hand, called him "Koskela of Finland, eats copper and plastic and shits cable". Guess who ended up in the cable team. Hint: it wasn't me... =)

I graduated from the exam as third to best. The platoon's commanding officer worried why I was so depressed and performed poorly when I did get such high grades, but the truth was that I had a lot of trouble in the civilian side...

The third and last part of our training was the "Mass training phase", which we practically spent in the frozen hell of Rovajärvi. That was the phase I had both the fondest memories of, and the lousiest memories of. I liked the moments I didn't needed to do the soldiering stuff; For most of the camp time, I sat in the tent ancknowledging incoming messages. The tent life was almost interesting. Now, war stuff... not really.

"So, everyone has a foxhole now? Okay. Full turn left... Three steps, go... man the near-1 post!... Okay, that was quick. Next time we'll take only two steps and it will be even faster." - one of our sergeants

I was finally demobilized in Jan 1, 1999.

Of course, if you don't like to go to army, there are options. If you're a Jehova's Witness, you're free. No need to serve at all (which is not terribly fair towards other people with similar faiths but fair if you consider how they were treated earlier). If you live in Aland, you get the easy way out. If you don't happen to belong to either of these priviledged groups, you have less choice. You can either become a siviilipalvelusmies (="civilian service man" literally) or skip the whole army thing completely. First option nets you 13 months of service, other six months in prison.

The thirteen months is a long time, but it has been worse. It was 16 months in the 80's and there's been lot of conversation and parlamentary arguing about if the period should be shortened to 11 months or so. You see, Amnesty International does not like it and has started to adopt Finnish war resisters who are in prison. It doesn't look very good on records, Finland being the only country in EU to have prisoners adopted by Amnesty. And what kind of crime is that anyhow, to refuse to learn to kill people? It might be against the Finnish law, but it's definitely not against the common sense or general humanity.

I, however, am not that extreme in my views, so becoming a siviilipalvelusmies, or sivari as we are called by everyone, was my choice. I spent a nice month in training, it was June so the Lapinjärvi training center was a very pleasant place. The training was very easy, we learned some first aid, had lectures about crisis situations, agriculture, psychology and things like that. Very easy and pretty useless (except the first aid).

Next twelve months I spent working. I was an office worker for local university student's union, doing computer stuff and helping wherever help was needed. Not a bad thing to do. Very nice work environment and friendly co-workers. Can't help thinking what it did to me, as most Finnish young men spend their army time with other young men, I spent the year with middle-aged women... Oh, whatever, I'd still like to think I spent my time being more useful to the society. I don't consider learning to kill people very useful skill and I hope that the service time gets shorter so more and more people choose not to go to army.

*sigh*...Here goes:

Military Service in Finland wasn't all that bad!

I think it's safe to say this, now that I have been a civilian for 6 months now. While I still think that many aspects of the military are neolithic, and I oppose conscription in principle, I still think it was a worthwhile experience. The older generation is usually the first to point out that in order to be a man, you have to go to the army. This is bullshit. You may learn stuff which will undoubtably be useful later in life, like teamwork and taking responsibilty for your actions, but if you don't already have that inside you, it will just be an opportunity to be a bigger weasel.

Of course, the army wasn't very difficult for me. I was a field cook in "Viestikomppania" (That is, the guys who operate the communications equipment), probably one of the wussiest positions available (but wrong us, shall we not avenge? Remember that Steven Seagal was one bad-ass cook in "Under Siege"). I have never eaten so much than I did when we were camping in the woods (there was always lots of extra pudding). Our team worked, and we did some crazy shit together. I mostly have happy memories, and as for those bad memories... well, let's just say I'm beginning to find something funny even in them.

In the end, it was all just a matter of attitude.

Call-up process of the Finnish Defence Forces

A Finnish male citizen becomes obligated to carry out his military or civil service in the beginning of the year in which he turns eighteen years old.

The process starts with a notification letter sent to the youngsters whose turn it is that year, usually in May. Included are a questionnaire on personal information and health, a friendly letter from an officer, and a list of dates when the actual call-ups take place in the defence area of the receiver.

In May and early June, school and health centre doctors conduct a medical examination on the future conscripts to determine their state of health and their service class:

  1. Class A: Perfectly fit for duty, can become anything.
  2. Class B: Has some defects that warrant a physically lighter position. A "B man" is usually trained to be a clerk, a courier, a driver, a cook or the like. Generally they can not become noncommissioned officerss, though they may become corporals.
  3. Class C: Has an illness or a physical defect that relieves from peace time duty, but not from war time duty.
  4. Class D: An enhanced version of C, relieved of both war and peace time duty.
  5. Class E: The feared E means "come back later in a few years". This is considered a Bad Thing because employers frown upon people who may end up serving right in the middle of their work, and it's a nuisance to serve as a 20-something in the presence of teenagers. You will have to attend the call-up for a re-evaluation of your status approximately once every two years until you are either 28 years old or are given an A, B, C or D.

The call-up itself takes place in autumn of the same year. It is considered an important occasion: the conscript must be there under obligation of law. Anyone neglecting to be at the appointed location at the given time and date will be considered a deserter. A deserter will end up on the wanted list of the police, and may be convicted to fines or a brief period of jail. A military offence of this sort does not leave behind a smear on a criminal record.

In the call-up the conscript's service class is finalised (it can change during actual service), and often his stationing is also determined. According to the nice letter mentioned before, the conscript's "thoughts and wishes" are heard, and they get to discuss the matter with an army officer, a doctor and a social worker. However, during a single day these three people may have to process nearly a hundred teenagers, so there's no time for any in-depth conversation. And obviously, the needs of the FDF outweigh the desires of an individual.

The conscript will not begin his service right after the call-up, it takes usually from a half to two years before actual service begins. The year is split to two halves, the other beginning in early January and the other in early July, on these days rotation happens and people get in and out.

For instance, a boy turning 18 in 2004, who lives in the Western defence area, in a town called Mänttä, will be in the call-up on September 2nd 2004, and will begin his service in January or July 2006. He might have scoliosis, and be in horrible shape, and be Class B. He might become a clerk and would then get back to his own life in July 2006 or January 2007.

That is, unless he decides to follow these instructions:

How to avoid military service in Finland

Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only. This is not an opinion on whether or not the Finnish system is right or wrong.

Compulsory military service in Finland lasts a minimum of 180 days and a maximum of 362 days. Won a Finnish passport at a raffle? Got your citizenship from Santa? Happened to be born to Finnish parent(s)? If you are also a male, haven't served yet, and are aged 18 to 28, and think that the service really isn't your cup of tea, here are your options:

  1. Civil service. No military training is involved. The workplace varies entirely on what sort of a job you yourself are able to acquire, common ones are tech support, a nurse of the elderly, a secretary. Officially civil service is for those who have ethical issues with military training, but it's not like they can open up your skull, peek inside and tell whether or not you're being a true pacifist.
  2. Duration: 395 days. Probability of success: 100%. Con: lasts for over a year. Pro: you only work 8 hours a day five days a week, the rest is your own time.

  3. Prison. You refuse to serve, in black and white, and will be trialed and convicted of a military service crime, which will not show up on your criminal record. The process from refusal to conviction may take take several months. You won't be thrown to a maximum security facility; this type of prisoners are usually placed in low security facilities and labour centres with white collar criminals and the like. You'll be let out once in a while and may even work or study at the same time. Note: Good sportsmanship is to declare that you refuse any service in the actual call-up instead of deserting.
  4. Duration: 197 days. Probability of success: 100%. Con: you may be socially ostracized. Pro: it's only six months, it's certainly no Abu Ghraib. You'll be able to catch up on your reading, and you might have access to the Internet too.

  5. Get rid of your Finnish citizenship. This is tricky. You can revoke your nationality, as long as you are eligible for or are the national of another nation. This depends entirely on the legislation of the second nation.
  6. Duration: the rest of your life, or until you regain citizenship and are under 28. Probability of success: Varies. Con: You will no longer be Finnish, and will miss out on excellent public schooling, fresh and clean air and water, and Alivaltiosihteeri. Pro: You will no longer be Finnish, and won't have to endure Marco Bjurström, reruns on TV and high taxes.

  7. Class D. Class D is reserved for men with permanent injuries that are so serious that they will not be eligible for service during peace or war. A common Class D illness is diabetes.
  8. Duration: The rest of your life. Probability of success: Varies. Con: You will have a nasty defect or an impractical illness. Pro: You won't have to worry about the military thing ever again.

  9. Class C. Class C is for those with injuries that are serious enough that service during peace is not possible. Acquiring Class C is easy if you use drugs, are a good actor and if you happen to have smaller nasties like rash, scoliosis, depression, and so on. Class C is also what happens if you manage to stay in E until you are 28 years old: then you are too old and cranky for the army.
  10. Duration: The rest of your life, unless Finland ends up in a war. Probability of success: Varies. Con: If you are really ill, you are stuck with that. Pro: If you really aren't ill, congratulations, you just talked yourself out of six or more months of military training. Now go and use that time wisely: study, node, work.

  11. Belong to a pacifist religion. Jehovah's Witnesses are the only religion to have gained de facto relieving of conscription. It is not too clear cut however: first, at the time of call-up the youth must be a long term member of the religion - to avoid misusing the status - and will be given a Class E ("Come back later") status until the age of 28, when E becomes C.
  12. Duration: Until you leave the religion and are under 28. Probability of success: Decided at your own birth. Con: You are a Jehovah's Witness, doomed to doing rounds and waiting for the end of the world. Pro: You are a Jehovah's Witness, and will attain eternal salvation.

  13. Flee the country and try to get asylum. This is supposed to work, as you will be considered a political refugee. This method hasn't been tried and tested too much, a single person on record has tried this by fleeing to Belgium. There he his currently stuck with the local bureaucracy, and is in a limbo between not being able to work in Belgium and not being able to return to Finland lest he get arrested.

Duration: You decide. Probability of success: Depends on the country you're going to. Con: You may end up like the fellow in Belgium. Pro: You get to embarrass Finland's policy internationally.

  • Become Ålandian. By a decree of the League of Nations in 1920, Åland was given to Finland under conditions. One of these was the demilitarization of the island. Hence any Ålandian cannot be conscripted. To be Ålandian, you must have lived on the island for five years and must speak Swedish well. Alternatively your parents may be Ålandians.

    Duration: Until there's no one to enforce the LN decision, until it's cancelled or until you live for more than five years in continental Finland. Probability of success: Decided either at birth or when you turned 13. Con: You must serve in civil service, set up by the Ålandian government. Pro: No such service has ever been arranged.

  • My personal recommendation is #5. As long as you are comfortable with having to lie through your teeth, and are good at spinning up a believable tale of how you are probably going to kill everyone in sight the moment you are given a rifle and live ammunition, #5 is the way to go. It is important however that you act politely at the call-up, appear to be frank, almost sorry you really can't attend, and above all else, make sure you are prepared for the service. Fabricating Class C is risky business, and more often than not results in Class B.

    Already serving and reading E2 at the cantine computer? Fear not! Any option save for religion and revoking of citizenship is possible to achieve even while serving. Class C, especially on the mental illness front, may be even easier, and prison and civil service stay at a 100% chance. You will even get to deduct the days spent in the army from your prison or civil service time. The formula to this is as follows:

    Divide 13 with the number of months you would have been spending altogether in the army (this can range from 6 to 12, by default it's 9, the average). This ratio times the amount of days you have spent in the army is the amount that will be deducted from your civil service.

    If you go to prison, the amount you'll have to stay there is half of what you have remaining of your service time. Your service time is always your civil service time - even if you were in the military, your military time will be converted to civil service time.

    Note that once you select civil service there's no going back to the army; you can go to prison from civil service though.

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