New recruits enlist with coronavirus restrictions in place

At Karelian Brigade in Eastern Finland they're keeping conscripts separated - while at the same time starting a new mixed-sex barracks experiment.

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File picture of Karelian Brigade conscript in training / Credit: Karelian Brigade

Some 12,000 new recruits are starting their military conscription today, and this year the coronavirus crisis brings some changes to their training.

Most of the conscripts are going to the army (9,200) – with the largest contingents beginning their conscription at Kainuu, Karelia and Pori Brigades – and the rest divided among Border Guard, Navy and Air Force.

At Karelian Brigade Headquarters in Eastern Finland – between Kouvola and Mikkeli – around two thousand new recruits reported for duty on Monday morning. This year the brigade is starting a co-accommodation experiment for the 110 women joining the training, with volunteers sharing barracks. Around 70% of incoming conscripts have indicated their willingness to participate.

However, there will be other separations to keep different conscript cohorts apart.

File picture of Lt Col Juhanna Skyttä, Karelian Brigade Chief of Staff / Credit: Twitter

“We are taking precautions and preparing for hygiene issues, but the main things which have changed I think is that we divide the conscripts into three different groups from the beginning, and after today they don’t go to eat, or to the gym, or wherever at the same time. They do not meet each other” explains Lieutenant Colonel Juhana Skyttä, Chief of Staff at Karelian Brigade.

“We will keep the conscripts here for two weeks, to teach them the basics of being a soldier, and especially in this case we have this coronavirus issue in the world right now, so we keep them for two weeks to be sure nobody has any sickness, and make sure we can send most of them back for leave” Skyttä tells News Now Finland.

“We are going to rotate their service period, four weeks here, then two weeks leave” he adds.

Karelian Brigade is prepared to test any conscripts at a low threshold if they have coronavirus-like symptoms. The testing is done by military doctors but the samples are sent to the public health system for analysis and results.