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Defence ministry mulls relaxing physical standards for military service

Some young men who want to serve are unable to do so because they don't meet the military's fitness requirements.

Taistelija makaa maassa ja tähtää rynnäkkökiväärillä.
Image: Petri Aaltonen / Yle

A parliamentary working group will examine whether or not to relax physical fitness requirements for military service in Finland, according to Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen.

The current requirements for conscripts are quite strict, the minister noted. "Some of the people who want to get in are unable to perform military service because of their poor physical condition," Kaikkonen said.

Due to declining birth rates, the number of conscripts will continue to decline in the future, and one of the working group's key tasks is to find ways of securing a sufficiently large pool of conscripts.

"At the same time, of course, I hope a slightly larger proportion of young women will volunteer in the future," Kaikkonen added.

Olli Nyberg, CEO of The Finnish Reservists' Association (FRA), a national organisation made up of military reservists of all ranks, agreed with Kaikkonen.

"It so happens in Finland that everyone is being trained to be a front-line fighter, but not everyone is capable of it." Nyberg noted that not all tasks in the military require high levels of physical training and ability.

"There are many tasks in the forces that do not require a top level of fitness," Nyberg added.

One way to secure a sufficient reserve would be to get a larger proportion of enrolled recruits to complete their service, according to the defence minister.

Currently, up to a third of those in the military conscription age of 18-30 years old do not complete their service — they're either rejected during call-up or leave before their service term is complete.

Defense minister: Military training also needs reform

Another broader aim of the military is to renew conscript training for peacetime activities, the defence minister said.

According to Kaikkonen, the work of the military is not just about guerrilla action or urban combat, saying that resources are needed for a variety of other tasks.

Kaikkonen suggested defence forces education programmes could be revamped to add training courses like airlift management and cybersecurity, for instance.

This could benefit the Finnish military and open up opportunities for those who, by current standards, are unable to join or even complete conscription service terms.

"Governments change, but we always need credible defence," Kaikkonen said.

The working group is due to complete its report by autumn next year.

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