MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU, Romania --
Marines with Black Sea Rotational
Force 14 travelled to Finland to participate in a basic cold-weather skills and
Military Operations in Urban Terrain Instructor’s course Jan. 6-24, alongside
the Jaeger Brigade and Guard Jaeger Regiment, the Finnish Defence Forces’
premiere winter-training units.
Marines from BSRF-14 recently
participated in the training, beginning in Rovaniemi with the Cold Weather Basic
Operations course, in temperatures approximately -5 degrees Fahrenheit,
concluding in Helsinki with a MOUT Instructor’s course.
The first two
elements of the training focused on employing key elements of cold-weather
operations basics, including: safe and effective weapons handling in cold
weather and snow conditions, thermal shelter construction and maintenance,
gathering and cooking food, land navigation, camouflaging methods, emergency
first-aid, basic procedures after cold water exposure, and tactical movements in
Sergeant Brandon Johnson, a platoon guide with
BSRF-14, went into the training with little experience with skiing and cold
weather survival techniques.
“The skiing portion was, for me, a little
bit difficult,” said Johnson. “There is a lot of coordination that goes in to it
and, once you start adding packs and things, it throws the center of balance off
and the snow conditions that we were skiing in made it a little bit difficult.
They understood that this was something that was completely out of our element.
This is not something that we do on a regular basis. They took their time. They
gave us as much instruction as they could before we actually took out to the
According to Sgt. James Schmidt, a squad leader with BSRF-14,
every learning objective built off the previous lesson until the final exercise
in the field.
The final exercise, a 17-kilometer movement that
incorporated lessons from the entire course, tested the Marines’ during extreme
physical and mental fatigue from lack of food and sleep. Marines, integrated in
the course with Finnish soldiers, had to cross-country ski with a full pack,
completing specified tasks as part of a survival scenario along the way. Tasks
included a live-fire range, evading the enemy, and submersing themselves in
“Throughout the movement, we did a number of different
things with evasion. We were moving to link up with our own friendly forces.
Within that movement, we did a simulated attack with a live-fire event against
the enemy,” explained 1st Lt. Jon Newbold, the assistant operations officer with
“Once we finally reached our own friendly lines, they showed us
recovery techniques [for] if you were to ski across a frozen lake or river but
you didn’t have any way to test how thick the ice was,” Newbold said.
“[The instructors taught us] things to do to cross the ice and then ways
to recover yourself if you were to fall through the ice. Once you skied into the
ice and got wet, you had to dump your pack, climb out of the ice, and then run
and go start your own fire and then change your clothes. That was probably the
toughest thing we did.”
Staff Sergeant Bobby Neal, a platoon sergeant
with BSRF-14, attended the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in
Bridgeport, Calif., two years ago. His experience with the winter training in
Bridgeport was comparable to what he experienced in Finland.
weather operations course] was a super compressed course,” said Neal. “[The
Jaeger Brigade’s] tactics are a little different than ours but everything is
basically the same. [In Bridgeport] We spent a significant amount of time
becoming proficient with skiing. We did a little bit of survival with shelters
but the majority of it was the mountain leader aspect… The survival stuff [the
Finnish soldiers] were teaching us after our position was ‘over ran’ was the
After completing training in Rovaniemi, the Marines
rotated to Helsinki for MOUT tactics and operations. The course, 11 days in
duration and tailored to international students, will qualify participants as
MOUT instructors. The Guard Jaeger Regiment provided instructor-level training
to a total of 40 students split into four training elements.
learning objectives taught students effective employment of the Finnish service
rifle and manual breaching tools, squad and platoon movements, room entry and
combat drills, resupply, detainee handling, and the proper utilization of fire
support, radios and visual markers in an urban environment.
facility the Finnish Defence Forces utilize is called the ‘Helsinki Simulator.’
An emptied and renovated aircraft manufacturing plant from WWI, the Helsinki
simulator can host a variety of different scenarios for training in urban
operations. Some scenarios, for example, include breaching through the ceiling,
climbing and repelling with ropes and breaking panes of glass for room
“At first it was a little difficult for us to let go of our
habits because there are things [the Finnish soldiers] do differently, like more
hand-and-arm signals,” said Neal. “Procedures in rooms are just a touch
different. I would say after the first week we were catching on to their ways
pretty well and it was a smooth transition for us.”
“It was pretty much
the same thing as MOUT back home. They do a few things differently, but there
was a lot that was, across the board, the same,” added Schmidt.
instructors even made it possible for students to practice urban operations in
Johnson was impressed by the opportunity to coordinate
with the local police and actually go out into downtown Helsinki to practice
urban patrolling, move around a city in full tactical gear, and employ their
tactics in an urban environment.
“We weren’t firing,” said Johnson. “We
didn’t use any [ammunition]. It was all about movement and team work. Each squad
also had an instructor assigned to them to move with them so if the locals tried
to interact with us or if they had questions, [the instructor] explained the
situation to them.”
The three weeks of training these Marines received in
Finland will not soon be forgotten. The training and partnership between the
U.S. and Finnish forces proved to be an integral part of BSRF-14’s mission of
maintaining and further strengthening close and solid relationships while
promoting regional stability and increasing interoperability with partner
nations in the region.
“Their instructor staffs are all very professional
and knowledgeable,” said Neal. “I would work with them again any day. I would
take them anywhere with me on any operation. I think they are that caliber of
“My favorite part of the training,” said Johnson, “was just
the interaction with a different force and seeing how, even though we come from
two different militaries and we have two completely different missions, we can
still come together as one and fight as a unified force to accomplish the