First decentralised patrol skill competition held in Finland

The Finnish Reserve Sports Association’s (Reserviläisurheiluliitto RESUL) winter patrol skill competition was planned for the spring of last year. The Corona pandemic restrictions that were introduced in March canceled “Pirkkajotos” only a day before the event began.

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

The faith in the realisation of the competition did not wane, and the idea that the event could take place in a year’s time prevailed.

However, Corona did not grant the opportunity to organise the competition with the original plan this spring either. A couple of weeks before the start of Pirkkajotos, the pandemic situation escalated to the point that the organisers were faced with the choice of canceling completely, or to arrange the event in such a way that there would be no danger of Corona spreading amongst competitors.

The organisers decided to consider Pirkkajotos a decentralised patrol skill competition.

-Pirkkajotos was carried out in such a way that the competing patrols planned their own route anywhere in Finland, says Pekka Sillanpää, the competition director.

Theoretical and functional tasks

-In addition to route planning, the patrols were given tasks at different times on the project’s website. They could be theoretical or functional tasks, Sillanpää said about the nature of the competition.

In the decentralised Pirkkajotos, help was provided in the completion of tasks by, among other things, everyday communication tools. The hand grenade task was done by makeshift means, such as stones.

In the first aid task and the detention task, the patrols video-recorded the completion with the help of a cell phone camera. In the second task, the solutions were sent to the organisers as a photograph. The competition had two series, a series of trekking and a reserve series.

-There was no shooting in the trekking series, but in the reserve series shooting was arranged in two different locations.

Forced to think differently

For a year now, the Corona virus has forced the organisers to figure out how different events could be executed despite the pandemic restrictions. Although there have been positive experiences with many events, such as the Varusteleka’s Long Distance Military March and RESUL’s Four Day March, having the patrol skill competition carried out as a decentralised event caused concern among the organisers.

-To the surprise of everyone, however, in the end the same number of patrols registered for the decentralised competition as for the original Pirkkajotos, Sillanpää said.

-We believed that with a strong will we would achieve this, Sillanpää said.

-The strong groundwork that Antti Laalahti, the competition director for the previous two years, had built with the leaders of different areas of responsibility, helped a lot.

The two-day competition gathered a total of 21 patrols, completing 22 tasks in addition to the shooting. More than 730 different task files were sent to the organisers. More than 60 field nights were spent between the patrols, sleeping outdoors, and more than 3 000 kilometers were traveled all together.