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EOD divers in European Battle Group readiness - high-level expertise by Finnish training system

Publication date 8.3.2024 14.01
Press release
EUBG EOD diver searching for EODs in a sub-surface exercise.
EUBG EOD diver searching for EODs in a sub-surface exercise.

In war and crisis situations, the Finnish Defence Forces needs an ability to dispose of explosives at the bottom of the sea and on the ground. These technically demanding and lengthy course entities are not ones that can be completed in a minimum of time, so the needed competence should already be available. Hiring high-quality professional units on a permanent basis would, however, take up a big slice out of the defence budget.

The Navy’s  EOD Diver Detachment is an example of a specially trained professional unit established according to need. EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, or clearing of explosives. The unit was established in the summer 2023 to answer for the needs of the European Battle Group; Finland has decided to place soldiers on stand-by for the Battle Group for a determined period of time.

During the first half of 2024, the European Battle Group (EUBG) will be composed of a French amphibious landing brigade, a Belgian artillery battery and a Finnish EOD diver detachment. Finland's task will be clearing underwater and on-the-ground improvised and military explosives in the Battle Group’s operations.   On a decision of the European Commission, the Battle Group may be used in military and non-military crises in Europe and on other continents.

What kind of persons form the professional units?

Those to be trained for special tasks undergo a strict selection process as a result of which carefully selected individuals who are able to think independently and adapt to different situations get accepted to the training. They may be either persons at call-up age or ones who have already completed their military service.

The EOD diver task is a special task requiring these features. The EOD diver task includes diving in coastal waters seeking and disposing of sea mines or other explosives. This work is not only dangerous, but also extremely technical, and that is why these individuals must be highly qualified both as divers and in handling explosives. They must muster the use of state-of-art technical equipment which enables effective operation in any sub-surface circumstances.

Individuals having undergone this intensive and also cost-effective training muster out into the reserve maintaining regularly their skills at refresher training exercises.

When specialists are called for, a recruitment process is started for hiring personnel from a personnel pool consisting of Defence Forces  reservists and regular staff. At the phase of setting up a unit, technical supplementary training is provided to strengthen the competency, and exercises conducted in this unit size ensure the appropriateness of the skills for situations in practice. 

The comparatively high level of general education and versatile language skills of Finns help them perform well also in international tasks. In crisis management operations, Finns are known for their down-to-earth way of interacting with the local people and looking at their customs. Understanding the situation of the locals and the ability of working toward preventing conflicts from escalating have made it possible for them to conduct their missions successfully in the course of decades.

Reservist career alongside a civilian career

The Finnish EOD Diver Detachment includes a 24-year old university student from Helsinki. He completed the Defence Forces EOD diver course a few years ago. After that, his skills have been maintained at regular refresher training exercises. From time to time, reservists like him are offered opportunities to work in camouflage-pattern uniforms, if necessary for the Defence Forces. Applying for tasks requiring special skills is voluntary, which is proof of the high level of motivation of the personnel.

- The Finnish people’s will to defend their country is among the highest in the world, and getting trained for the needs of national defence is a proudly recognized obligation. This is certainly why a six-month break from studies was able to be accepted by the university as a matter requiring a simple notification.

By global standards, it is rare for breaks to be taken from university studies for serving in the military voluntarily.

- Daily activities in the military bring a welcome change to the bulk of studies taking several years. In the EOD Diver Detachment, I have participated in high-quality courses with like-minded work mates and exchanged information with corresponding units from other countries. I am convinced that the work experience acquired by me in my reservist career will also support my civilian career.

EUBG  EOD diver reconnoitring a possible car bomb in an above-ground exercise scenario.