Finnish UN peacekeepers bound for Lebanon completing training this week
Training at the Pori Brigade in Säkylä will end with a two-week vacation before mobilisation to the crisis area
The main group of Finnish peacekeepers leaving for Lebanon to take part in the operations of the UNIFIL troops under the United Nations flag was out practising vehicle inspections on the gravel roads in Säkylä’s Huovinrinne on Wednesday.
The soldiers’ training at the Pori Brigade in Säkylä has lasted up to six weeks, ending up with a two-week leave from this Friday. The mobilisation to Lebanon will take place on May 18th.
Corporal Juha Kantanen, 23, from Lieto has been trained to serve as a driver. On Wednesday, he was still crawling around a car with a long-handled mirror, practising how to inspect the chassis of a vehicle.
”I am looking for parts which do not belong here. The purpose of inspecting this car is to secure our own safety”, Kantanen reports.
”In my own training the emphasis was laid on traffic safety, stressing the point that one has to be watchful as the traffic culture in Lebanon is rather different from our own”, Kantanen continues.
Kantanen says that his girlfriend has been very supportive of his departure to Lebanon, even though she is not particularly enthusiastic about it.
”We will naturally be homesick, and we have not been informed of any leave as yet, not even of free evenings. But it will all become clear to us in due course”, Kantanen believes.
”I would not mind at all, if we were not allowed to drink beer at all there”, Kantanen says.
However, Kantanen’s superiors say that there is no absolute ban on alcohol in Lebanon.
”Two servings of beer or wine are permitted, at the agreed time and place, when the leader of the operation permits it”, reports the commanding officer of the Pori Brigade, Colonel Juha Pyykönen.
The regulations were softened at the request of the Finnish peacekeepers’ Irish partners.
The Finns will give assistance to the Irish peacekeepers who have been in Lebanon already for a longer time. Pyykönen says that it is natural that both partners will have the same regulations.
Corporal Lauri Saarnia, 21, from Sipoo has been trained to shoot rocket-propelled grenades.
”After having been trained in the international rapid deployment force of the Finnish Defence Forces in Säkylä I have had a twelve-month break. I have been doing odd jobs, while waiting for this”, Saarnia notes.
”I am full of enthusiasm. Behind this is my boyish love for adventure”, Saarnia admits.
”I am not scared. I trust my fellow soldiers and our equipment. I feel a little nervous, but in a positive way. We have had quite many lessons about feelings of fear and anxiety”, Saarnia reports.
Parliament gave its unanimous support last December to the deployment of 200 Finnish peacekeeping troops in Lebanon.
The decision came at a point when Finland's participation in UN peacekeeping efforts was at an exceptionally low level.
Finland has traditionally punched above its weight in terms of contributions to "Blue Beret" operations, but the current position was also seen as detrimental to the country's hopes of possibly securing a rotating seat on the UN Security Council from 2013.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Parliament backs Finnish participation in Lebanon peacekeeping effort (1.12.2011)
Defence Forces prepare for new peacekeeping operation in Lebanon (11.4.2011)
Finland is preparing for possible return to UN-led peacekeeping operations in Lebanon (1.9.2010)