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All men serving in the Finnish Defense Forces, even those aspiring to become career or reserve officers, underwent basic conscript training. Army training was conducted within the unit to which the conscript was assigned. The standard initial training phase of twelve weeks was followed by twelve to nineteen weeks of individualized training in infantry, field artillery, coast artillery, antiaircraft, signals, or engineering skills. An ordinary army conscript's service concluded with a refresher period of several weeks, composed of advanced unit training and a field exercise that involved several units of the same conscript contingent. Training programs stressed the development of combat motivation, physical fitness, marksmanship, and the ability to maneuver and to survive in independent guerrilla operations under difficult conditions. Basic training was rigorous, and conscripts spent at least sixty nights outside, even during winter. Evaluations by the conscripts of the effectiveness of the training and of the NCO training staff were generally favorable.
Those conscripts who excelled in the initial stages could apply for a special fifteen-week period of training as reserve NCOs, after which they completed their active military service as squad leaders. Reserve officer candidates selected during the NCO training phase pursued the first eight weeks of NCO training, followed by a further fourteen weeks of reserve officer training. This included six weeks of basic training as platoon leaders and three weeks of practice in the coordinated operation of various weapons units. After completion of training, the reserve officer candidates returned to their original units for thirteen weeks of service as trainers. At the conclusion of their eleven months of service, they were commissioned as second lieutenants. In the late 1980s, about 25 percent of each class of conscripts became NCOs and about 7 percent become officers.
The first two years of a three-year educational program for career officer candidates was conducted at the Military Academy at Santahamina near Helsinki for all three branches of the armed forces and for the RVL. Army cadets attended a school in their chosen arms specialty during the third year. Naval cadets spent the third year of training at the Naval Academy at Helsinki. Air cadets attended the Air Force Academy at Kauhava for the third year of training. The Defense Forces announced in 1988 that the academy's curriculum would be revised to include nonmilitary subjects so that its graduates would have the equivalent of a university-level degree. The duration of the course would probably be lengthened to three and one-half years. Entry was by examination among those who had completed the reserve officer program during their conscript service.
Army graduates of the Military Academy were commissioned as first lieutenants (with promotion to senior lieutenant within a year), served as instructors for three or four years, and then attended an eight-month to ten-month course that normally led to the rank of captain within two to three years. Six to eight years after taking the captains' course, officers could take examinations leading to the two-year (three-year, for technical specialties) general staff officers' course at the War College. About thirty-five officers, from all three services, who had been successful in the examinations, were enrolled annually. These officers could expect to have general staff assignments, and they would become eligible for promotion to the ranks of colonel and general. Officers not attending the War College were eligible for a senior staff officers' course of eight to ten months, completion of which qualified them for the ranks of major and lieutenant colonel. A very limited group of officers was selected to attend advanced courses abroad, in Sweden, France, the United States, and, occasionally, the Soviet Union.
Training of career NCOs was conducted at the one-year NonCommissioned Officers School and at various branch or service schools. Applicants had to have completed the reserve NCO course during their conscript service, whereupon they were permitted to take a qualifying examination for the lowest regular NCO rank of staff sergeant and subsequent examinations to advance to sergeant first class and master sergeant. After three years of service, an NCO could apply for phase two of the Non-Commissioned Officers School as a qualification for promotion to sergeant major. Since 1974 career NCOs who successfully advanced through the various training stages were eligible for commissions and, ultimately, for promotion as high as captain.
Each service also had its own training institutions. The infantry had its combat school and paratroop school. The artillery had the artillery school--with its ranges near Rovaniemi in northern Finland, the coast artillery school, and the antiaircraft school. In addition to pilot training, the air force had specialist schools for maintenance, radar, and communications personnel. Refresher courses for reservists were conducted either in these permanent schools or in the reserve units themselves.
Data as of December 1988
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