Some of our friends and students are participating in a kertausharjoitus (refresher training) for the Finnish military this week. If it's the same one I read about on Yle News, they're practicing defending Helsinki in a kind of war game. Military service is mandatory for men in Finland, and after your six or twelve or eighteen months are complete, you still have to participate in these refresher trainings every once in a while.
Coming from the US, where military conscription (at least in this day and age) is not done, it's been interesting to see how the process works here. Most men turn 18 and do six months of military service shortly thereafter and that's it. But there are other options. If someone doesn't want to do the military service (for moral or practical reasons), they can complete a civil service option by working in a hospital or something similar. I have had plenty of students do that. They can also be sentenced to six months in prison. Some men, however, choose to get leadership or specialist experience in the military as well, and serve for twelve or eighteen months instead of six.
We used to live really close to a train station, and on Friday afternoons, it was very common to see young military cadets in uniform getting off the train to go home for the weekend.
And what about women? Well, they can serve, too! I have yet to encounter a female student who has served in the military, but I know there are women who do it. I understand that it's required for certain jobs - if you want to be a police officer, for example. Women have the option of dropping out before 45 days with no penalty. What I hear from my students is that there are not many women who sign up for military service, but the ones who do are generally top-notch.
Right now, at ages 12 and 9, my girls think spending six months in the military sounds pretty fun - running around in the forest with night vision goggles on, lots of exercise, camping for weeks at a time and eating dehydrated food, plus coming home on the train every weekend wearing a spiffy uniform. Sounds like a kid's dream, right? They may change their mind once the time comes - or they may be required to when the time comes! There is talk of making service mandatory for women as well. We'll see!