Well, here I go writing this post for the second time. I had it all typed out yesterday but I forgot to save it before closing my laptop and I guess Word didn’t feel like autosaving last night.
So I realised yesterday when checking my blog that I have not actually written about any army stuff in about a month which means it’s about time for another update. Once again, a reminder that I have to be quite vague with what I talk about on here but, to be honest, I am far too low down the ranks to know any real military secrets.
First and foremost I think I will talk about my new rank and my new role here. Following the vala (the ceremony where we swore to be good little soldiers) we all got promoted from being alokas (recruit) to jääkäri. The word jääkäri is taken from the German word “jaeger” meaning hunter and is a testament to the attitude of the Finnish military following the Winter War that rather than see us as infantrymen they see us as hunters. I have to say that “jaeger” is quite possibly the coolest job title I will ever get. Not many people can say they have peaked at just 18 years old which is something, I guess.
The other major thing that has happened since then is that we finished the 8 week basic training period and have begun our specialist training. It is this training that determines how long we will serve here so thankfully I finally know when I will be coming home. There are three durations: 347 days, 255 days, and 165 days. Soldiers who undergo leadership training and the drivers serve for 347 days (11 months). Medics and military police serve for 255 (9 months) and the rest of us serve for 165 (6 months).
Initially when I came here I thought that serving 9 months would the best for me because it would allow me to see all the seasons and, more importantly, I could get away with rounding it up and saying that I served here for 1 year. Once I got here though I realised that 9 months was not really an option for me. The military police was out of the question because you had to take an exam in, you guessed it, Finnish so unless I managed to get ridiculously lucky with my guesswork it probably wouldn’t work out for me. Besides, the best police officers are the ones who use force as little as possible because they have such good communication skills. My Finnish vocabulary is still limited mostly to military commands, food, and swear words.
For a while I wanted to be a medic, I thought saving lives would be pretty cool and the skills are very transferable. Then I realised that there are two kinds of people in this world; there are those who see a sick or injured person and flock to them to provide every bit of help they can, and people like me who stand there and go “Oh, that looks pretty bad. I hope they’ll be okay”. I’m probably not the kind of person you want in charge of keeping you alive when you’ve got a bullet embedded in your thigh. That said I can tie a damn tight tourniquet.
Being a driver was also out of the question because you have to have a Finnish driving license and it looks like quite possibly the most boring job available here. So that left me with leadership training and all of the different six month options. Oh, or I could be the bicycle repairman. At this point you are probably thinking “there is no way they would make him a leader” and to that I have to say… well, you’re right. They didn’t make me a leader even though I applied. It wasn’t exactly a shock because when we sat to down to find out what rank we got I was thinking the exact same thing. It was worth applying for though because I know that I would have sorely regretted it for a long time if I didn’t even try. The whole time I had the scene from Michael Bay’s Transformers in my head where Shia LaBeouf says “Fifty years from now, when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car?”
So what am I then? I am a jaeger, one of the infantrymen that will be on the front line if a war breaks out. We spend a lot of time training in the forest, shooting guns, reloading guns, and doing all of the fun soldier stuff that I came here for. I am still in the same building, in the same platoon, just across the hall from my old room. In each squad there are several different roles and for the time being I am the varajohtaja, or the second in command, although that may change in the coming weeks depending on how my Finnish progresses and whether the higher officers think I am up for it or not.
Regardless though, I will be serving here for 165 days which means my time in the army should be over in December and I will hopefully be home in time for Christmas! That gives me four months to learn the rest of the Finnish language, finish the Complete Works of Shakespeare, toughen up a bit, and somehow turn into an adult. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do at least one of the things on that list.
P.S. Here is a link to a video of some Chilean soldiers running the exact same obstacle course that we have here. I have to admit I may not have been quite as fast as them when I ran it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU-6Fudj1SQ