A hundred years of Finnish Reserve Officer training

Only a few weeks after the country got its independence in 1917, Finland organised the first platoon leader course in Vimpeli. This has been considered the beginning of Reserve Officer training in Finland. The first Reserve Officers Course began the 1st of April 1920 at the Reserve Officer School in Hamina.

By 1st Lt. Susanna Takamaa, Finnish Reserve Officer Federation/ CIOR Public Affairs

During World War II, the reserve officer training was relocated from Hamina to Niinisalo where it operated under the name of Officer School. From 1945 to 1948 the training was halted all together because of the Allied Control Commission.

After that the school returned to Hamina where it has continued to train reserve officers on two courses per year, the summer and the winter course.

Most of the reserve officer trainees are young people in their twenties. Photo: Susanna Takamaa.

The defence of Finland’s territory is based on the large reserve created by general conscription. Every male Finnish citizen aged 18 to 60 is liable for military service, and women can apply for military service on a voluntary basis.

Annually, the Army’s eight brigade-level units alone train around 20 000 conscripts. The Finnish Navy turns approximately 3400 conscripts into reservists every year, and the Air Force around 1300. Less than 10% of the conscripts are trained to become reserve officers.

Thousands of reservists trained every year

Refresher exercises, which maintain reservists’ skills, involve thousands of reservists each year.

Nowadays Finland has five different reserve officer training units. While the Reserve Officer School in Hamina trains most of the reserve officers, some special branches carry out their own reserve officer training.

Among these are the Special and Para Jäger units of Utti Jaeger Regiment and officers for the armoured troops of the Armoured Brigade. Navy reserve officers are trained in Naval Warfare School and Air Force reserve officers in Air Force Academy.

Military rank only when in active service

The service obligation as reservists continues until the age of 60. The reserve officers do not have a military standing while in the reserve but when called to active service, reserve officers rank with career officers.

Based on their performance during service in the reserve, reserve officers may be promoted to higher ranks. All officer promotions are decided by the President of Finland.

The reserve officer courses bring soldiers from most Finnish garrisons together and bond them through the shared experiences. Sportswear with their own insignia for each course is one of the most prominent identifier among especially the younger reserve officers. Photo: Susanna Takamaa.