Conscript service and training

The objective of conscript training involves sustaining the Finnish Defence Forces’ readiness as well as training the persons liable for military service in tasks of national defence. Conscript training is provided annually for approximately 21,000 conscripts. Over the past years, the number of women applying for the voluntary military training for women has been on the rise.

The conscripts become selected for given training programmes based on the needs of the Finnish Defence Forces. The selections account for the conscripts’ competences and leadership potential as well as the results of instructor and peer evaluations.

The quality of conscript training is validated by implementing effective and motivating training that remains subject to continuous assessment and development based on the feedback accrued. The results of the Conscripts’ Final Surveys

The Finnish Defence Forces will continue to have zero tolerance for bullying, harassment or hazing. All activities conducted are based on equal and non-discriminative treatment.

The competences that a person liable for military service has developed before entering into service will be acknowledged before entry into service with the aim to be able to utilise these competences in future service tasks. Conscripts’ special competences will be utilized in special tasks. The conscript service forms part of an individual’s training and work career. The Finnish Defence Forces will promote acknowledging the competences acquired while in military service in cooperation with educational institutions and employers.

When young people begin their military service, they encounter novelties: shared accommodation, regulated use of time, military discipline and physically straining activities. For some conscripts this will temporarily increase the psychological load. This will be taken into account in the initial stage of the military service. The service condition arrangements abide by the following principles:

  • Fostering justice and equality at all times
  • Reacting to personal problems appropriately by taking them seriously
  • Respecting the confidentiality of personal matters
  • Collecting feedback and reacting to this feedback constructively

The social skills of conscripts will be developed as part of small group training in the wartime section composition. The rank and file training emphasises the importance of cooperation between the combat fire team and intrapersonal responsibility for looking after each other. Leadership training will highlight encountering people as individuals, building-up of trust and caring for the subordinates.

Conscript training will educate soldiers who comprehend the rightfulness of national defence and remain capable of making ethically sound choices and decisions. The ethical education part of conscript training emphasises the value of each human being, ability to appreciate differences, respect for individuals and sense of responsibility.

Structure of conscript training

Conscript training comprises varying training periods. All the persons liable for military service start from the same line. Depending on the given training, the conscript service will last for 165, 255 or 347 days. In total, approximately 43% of conscripts will serve for 347 days, some 14% for 255 days, and 43% for 165 days.

Those being trained for the rank and file tasks will serve for 165 days and those trained for rank and file tasks requiring special competence as well as those undertaking unarmed service will serve for 255 days. The conscripts being trained as reserve officers, non-commissioned officers and for most demanding rank and file special tasks will serve for 347 days.

Basic training period

Once the conscripts have completed the basic training period, they master the soldiers’ basic skills

During the basic training period, the most seminal contents teach the conscripts the basics of safe handling of the assault rifle as well as ammunition. It is also important that optimal training choices are made towards the end of the basic training period. The recruits will also learn cooperating fundamentals by living and functioning together. They learn to operate in a military organisation, understand the relevance of the chain of command and military discipline for the force as well as the responsibilities set by an assigned mission for an individual soldier.

For the majority of the conscripts, the basic training period lasts for eight weeks. Over the first few weeks, the conscripts are familiarized with the daily service rhythm of the company-level unit and the brigade-level unit. During the basic training period, the conscripts learn the general grounds for military activities as well as the soldiers’ basic skills. This gives the conscripts in all the three services the grounds for safe operating as an individual soldier, as a member of a combat fire team or as part of a section.

The training contents remain identical regardless of the service branch

The basic military exam will be completed during the basic training period measuring personal knowledge and skills in weapons and marksmanship training, combat and marching training as well as in physical education. The exam comprises basic firing (incl. firing skills test), live firing, marching, combat training course, weapon handling track, orienteering exercise as well as a written exam on the contents of the Soldier’s Guide. The reward for completing the exam commendably will be exemplary conduct leave!

The training selections of the conscripts will be made during the basic training period. The trainees are assigned to the training branches and sections as well as in leadership training or in special training programmes. While in basic training, the conscripts can apply for the special tasks that correspond to their given competences and civilian education.

Soldiers are conscripts who have undertaken rank and file training and who will be positioned in the wartime force composition in combat tasks. Those selected for combatant training equal conscripts with physical and mental resilience and strength.

Specialists are conscripts trained in the most demanding wartime and peacetime rank and file tasks requiring specialist training. These include, for instance, military drivers, armoured fighting vehicle crew tasks, naval units tasks, military police, conscript chaplains as well as other special duties presupposing professional vocational competence. Those trained to become specialists are conscripts with suitable civilian training and suitable personal characteristics.

Leadership training will be given for the conscripts who have been deemed most suitable in the contingent for this purpose based on the results of the leadership and learning aptitude tests. The selections will also account for the leadership need in the wartime composition of the Finnish Defence Forces.

Special training period

The objective of the special training period is that the conscripts, who are to be placed in positions of wartime rank and file tasks, will after the special training period master the soldier’s knowledge and skills of their respective service, service branch and branch of training. This training provides the readiness for operating in the training-branch-specific task as part of a fireteam, section and platoon.

The soldiers’ special training period lasts for 9 weeks. This training focuses on internalizing the key wartime skills of one’s own branch of training. The focal point of training centres on courses required for wartime tasks and special training for soldiers of the services and service branches.

The soldiers are trained to master the tasks that accord with their wartime placement in their wartime unit.

During the special training period soldiers partake in the live firing exercises required for their section or crew-served weapon complemented by the live firing exercises as set by their given service branch and branch of training. In addition, the soldiers take the soldier’s training branch exam in accordance with their set branch of training.

Specialists will undertake special training programmes of different branches after the 8-week basic training period. The special programmes may start already during the basic training period if the local circumstances and training arrangements necessitate this. The deadline for the completion of the special programmes tends to be the transfer to the reserve of the previous contingent’s conscripts serving for 255 days.

While undertaking these special programmes, the specialists learn practical knowledge and skills necessary for knowing the wartime functions of their rank and file duties as well as such peacetime maintenance supply, logistics and surveillance tasks in garrisons that require special training. The special programmes include an exam and training in a demanding task.

Regardless of their given area of specialisation, the specialists must know the soldier’s skills in order to be capable of infantry combat in defending the area of mobilisation or responsibility of their training branch’s unit, and in conducting counter offensive. If the special course has already started during the basic training period, a 3-week repetition period will be arranged during the special training period and unit training period to revisit issues covered back in the basic training period.

The training in the special training and unit training period of the rank and file serving for 255 days is planned by accounting for garrison obligations, wartime task requirements as well as combat training exercises and live firing exercises.

The specialists’ conscript leaders will change in mid-term half way through the special training period. The specialists are primarily placed with their own contingent in the wartime unit, even though they are not transferred to the reserve at the same time as the unit’s soldiers.

When the contingent peers have mustered out, the specialists continue to deepen their competence and know-how, achieve their qualification certificates and support the training of the following contingent. A conscript belonging to the rank and file demonstrating particular capabilities and suitability during the special training period can in exceptional cases undergo the NCO Course or Reserve Officer Course together with the following contingent. Some specialists serve for 347 days, for instance those serving in the readiness units’ rank and file duties as well as the majority of military drivers whose qualification certificates require long practical hands-on training. The specialists serving for 347 days partake in the military training exercises and live firing exercises of their own contingent as well as of the following contingent.

Unit training period

The objective of the unit training period is that, after its completion, the trainees master the tasks that accord with their given placement and are capable of fulfilling the set capability requirements.

Taking altogether some 7 weeks, the unit training period equals the culmination point of the functionality and skills acquired while in conscript service including the most important military training and live firing exercises.

Conscripts are assembled and placed in the wartime unit that is produced by the beginning of the unit training period. The units will be trained in their wartime composition that may also include an over-strength belonging to the unit.

During the unit training period, the unit’s training level will be measured and assessed in the combat training and live firing exercises.

Updating training for the 2020s

The Finnish Defence Forces will renew conscript training and practices involved in the liability for military service by employing the Training 2020 Programme.

The Training 2020 Programme will develop the call-up system, service selections, training system entity as well as training methods. The development objective entails smoothing out the training path of a person liable for military service all the way from being liable for call-up to finally being mustered out as a reservist in the FDF reserve.

With its training objectives set at a high level, this programme aims at conducting high-impact, cost-effective training that meets the challenges posed by changes in the future security environment. This effective and goal-oriented training will be beneficial both for the defence system and for an individual.

Utilising modern technologies, the training accords with modern perceptions on learning and thereby endows the trainee with increasing responsibility over their own learning. Training will become endorsed and the achieved learning outcomes will be systematically measured.

The concept of the Training 2020 Programme will undergo piloting carried out in brigade-level units across the country over the coming two years. The recognized best practices will then be integrated as part of the Training 2020 Programme proper. As such, the Training 2020 Programme forms part of the continuing improvement of the Finnish Defence Forces.

The Training 2020 Programme will facilitate progress in the following aspects:

Call-ups and service selections

  • Utilising digitalisation as an aid in information transmission. The Finnish Defence Forces’ E-service will be accessible by all persons liable for military service.

Modern training methods

  • Simulation, online and virtual training will become a natural part of the training of a person liable for military service.
  • Training will be modified to feature module structures - this supports in defining sub-objectives and ensuring even training quality. Transitions and waiting times will be reduced.
  • The set competence objectives steer training implementation. The facilitating role of an instructor becomes pronounced. Training supports sustaining comprehensive capability, with psychological, social and ethical as its sub-capabilities.

Training system

  • The set competence objectives will inform the evaluation of service times.
  • The impact of the training system will be systematically assessed - the sub-areas of the training system are learning outcomes, time efficiency, cost efficiency, optimal use of resources and facilities.
  • Readiness unit training will be further developed.
  • Reserve training system will be further developed. In the future, the Finnish Defence Forces’ E-service will also cover the reservists’ needs.
  • Demanding training exercise activities will be intensified. The set level of training objectives will remain high and the training implementation will be increasingly comprehensive.

At the moment, the key piloting concerning this programme are underway in the Pori Brigade, Coastal Brigade and Air Force Academy training of the contingent 2/18. The development projects relating to the Training 2020 Programme will also be covered through the Finnish Defence Forces’ social media channels with #koulutus2020.