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
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
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."
Nations of SFOR: Finland