Finnish Farewell

Maj. Viktor Nikolla
First published in
SFOR Informer#164, August 1, 2003

After 7 years in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) the Finnish soldiers have left for home. On July 14, 2003 at Tuzla Eagle Base a farewell ceremony took place officially marking the withdrawal of Finns from SFOR (Stabilisation Force). This was a culmination of a process that started in December 2002, and will be complete by August 30th, 2003.

Tuzla - One month after the RMC (Russian Military Contingent) withdrew from SFOR, another farewell ceremony took place within MNB-N (Multinational Brigade North). The Finnish contingent lowered its flag for the last time officially marking the end of its mission in SFOR.
The Finnish contingent in BiH 1996 - 2003
For the first time in Finland's history the nation participated in a NATO led stabilisation force by sending a Reconstruction Battalion to Doboj, in BiH to operate as a part of the Nordic-Polish Battle Group. The battalion was later changed to a Jaeger Battalion, which had responsibility of its own area of responsibility. The Finnish contingent numbered up to 500 soldiers at that time.
In January 2000, the Finnish Battalion was redeployed but around 120 soldiers stayed and started the CIMIC (Civil and Military Co-operation) work, which has been the contingent's key task. At the end of 2000 the contingent moved to Eagle Base, Tuzla, where they worked from May 2001 covering the CIMIC activities in the Russian and US sectors of MNB-N. Since then the CIMIC Company has been directly under command of the MNB-N Commander. One of their primary concerns has been the support of the return process of Displaced Persons and Refugees (DPREs) within Brigade AOR (Area of Responsibility).
In December 2002 the contingent received an order from the President of Finland that the Finnish contingent operation in BiH would leave in 2003. Ever since then the contingent has been reducing its activities and manpower, though it had to take over the Swedish CIMIC AOR after the Swedes left at the end of 2002. By July this year only 66 soldiers were left. The contingent carried out its last CIMIC activities on July 5th, 2003 and the last Finnish soldiers will leave on August 30th.
The contingent was a combination of active duty and reserve officers with a few reserve NCOs as well as privates from all over Finland. The reserve officers have represented the largest group of personnel. "Reserve officers have proved to be a very valuable tool in the CIMIC field due to their different kind of background and skills, which enables them to get along nicely with their civilian counterparts" said Maj. Arjo Kaarre.
A magnificent contribution
The commander of MNB-N, Brig. Gen. Mason, commended the soldiers for their effort. In his speech addressed to them he said: "The Finnish have served as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina for seven years from 1996 to 2003. This was the first Finnish participation in a NATO peace support operation. I must say it has been magnificent. I know no other nation that has singly contributed not only to the peace but also to the reconstructing of this nation in such a unique way."
The Finish contingent left BiH very proud for what they have done, leaving it much better than they found it. Col. Kari Pohjala, commander of the Finnish contingent said in his final address at the parade, " I am very proud for what you have done. You have made an outstanding contribution to the mission. The contingent within MNB-N, wish you all the best. For us it is time to go home. Finnish contingent has accomplished its mission, hoping that this part of Europe is a better place to live than seven or eight years ago."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Finland

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The map represents the CIMIC Company’s AOR within MNB-N and how it was divided between the teams.

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Photos: 1Lt. German Francisco Muñoz Rivas

The Finnish flag is lowered for the last time.

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Janjari school in Ugljevik municipality before and after the Finn CIMIC project.

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Brigade Commander BG Mason presents medals to members of the Finnish Contingent.