Defense Issues

Military and general security

Finnish Ski Troops – Finland’s Elite Light Infantry

Posted by Picard578 on May 12, 2016

The Baltic Post

Sissi Unit Emblem. Sissi Unit Emblem.

Finnish Ski Troops or “Sissi” are light infantry which conducted reconnaissance, sabotage and guerrilla warfare operations behind enemy lines. The word sissi, first attested in the modern meaning “patrolman, partisan, spy” in 1787, comes to Finnish from Slavic and refers either to a forest bandit or his yewbow.

The Finnish Army Sissi units are trained to conduct long range reconnaissance patrols, gather intelligence from concealed observation posts, raid enemy installations (especially supply depots), conduct road side ambushes and pursue and destroy enemy special forces units.

A Finnish Ski patrol with reindeer. A Finnish Ski patrol with reindeer.

In Finland, long-range patrols (kaukopartio) were especially notable during World War II. For example, Erillinen Pataljoona 4 (4th Detached Battalion), a command of four different long-range patrol detachments; Detachment Paatsalo, Detachment Kuismanen, Detachment Vehniäinen and Detachment Marttina operated throughout the Continuation War phase of the war…

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19 Responses to “Finnish Ski Troops – Finland’s Elite Light Infantry”

  1. Duviel said

    That was a good read.

    Thank You!

  2. altandmain said

    If you think about it, man for man, the Finnish forces did remarkably well, considering how badly they had been outnumbered.

    It does seem like smaller nations always punch above their weight.

    • picard578 said

      It is not always true – Iraq punched well below its weight in war against United States, and indeed Muslim Arab countries do badly in conventional warfare – but it might do with the fact that larger countries tend to consider the outcome a foregone conclusion due to disparity, and so get lax.

      • altandmain said

        Fair enough. Often though they do tend to punch above their weight.

        It may be that large size, combined with lots of resources does instill a certain degree of laziness, for lack of a better term, that puts a smaller emphasis on average troop quality.

        Finland though is a good example of what can happen at its best – the USSR probably did think that it would be “easy” to conquer Finland, just like the US thought it would be “easy” to conquer Vietnam and later in 2003, occupy Iraq.

        • picard578 said

          Indeed. When one is at disadvantage he will be far more attentive than when he feels he has the advantage, which due to importance of OODA loop tends to ironically allow disadvantaged side to prevail (Germany v/s Britain and France in WWII, for example).

      • altandmain said

        One thing that may be endemic to the Arabic nation states (well technically they are feudal states if you think about it), is that their command structure is uniquely bad for fighting modern warfare.

        High power distance culture, long OODA loops, and a design less to fight wars as much as to prevent a coup d’etat.

        Not a third generation force and arguably not good even at second generation warfare.

        • picard578 said

          Arab militaries are no militaries in modern sense, they are police forces tasked with supressing internal dissent. Islamic culture has a lot to do with it, they are good at irregular small unit warfare where religious zeal will get them through (and when that is absent, nonexistence of nationalism and clan loyalties will render them completely ineffective), but as soon as you get to conventional warfare, it all comes crashing down.

      • altandmain said

        True enough.

        If you think about it though, the US is basically engaging in neocolonial warfare as well. It is more oriented towards Second Generation warfare, having never been able to complete the transition to Third Generation warfare. Perhaps that is a big reason for its ineffectiveness versus Fourth Generation organizations.

        The Arabic nations I would agree are oriented towards their internal dissidents. Basically they are societies where the elite extract most of the useful output from the population and natural resources. Inevitably that brings discontent. This leaves the populations in such nations without resources in low standards of living and those with resources dependent on such resources.

        Meanwhile Arabic combat power suffers, despite a large percentage of the total national wealth being spent on the military. It is very much a cultural and social problem.

        I suppose that we should not be too arrogant. Neoliberalism has been very bad for the West.

        • Duviel said

          “If you think about it though, the US is basically engaging in neocolonial warfare as well. It is more oriented towards Second Generation warfare, having never been able to complete the transition to Third Generation warfare. Perhaps that is a big reason for its ineffectiveness versus Fourth Generation organizations”

          If you could explain what you mean by third and fourth gen. warfare, I would appreciate it.

          You mention US war-fighting ineffectiveness Vs fourth gen opponents. Not sure what opponent that might be. But, I guess first I must understand what fourth gen warfare is.

          Us (or any other military power) has not fought a peer type opponent since WWII.

          If you meant Vietnam, I dont think Vietnam was really a military defeat. It was not even a war in the traditional sense. It was a foreign police force trying to control a popular insurgency.

          Vietnam was a failure of US (and French before them) armed forces to put down a popular insurgency but I am not sure I would consider it a military defeat.

          Korea was not a peer type engagement but it was a true military engagement against a large (Chinese) military force.

          The Sabre Vs Mig battles of Korea were very close to what it would have looked like in an airwar beetween USSR and US in 1950’s. In fact many Migs were flown by Soviet pilots.

        • picard578 said

          Basically,
          – First generation warfare is a linear attritional warfare with massed manpower (e.g. Napoleonic wars)
          – Second generation warfare is a linear attritional warfare with massed firepower (e.g. World War I)
          – Third generation warfare is a nonlinear maneuver warfare, avoiding direct engagement (German maneuver warfare)
          – Fourth generation warfare is modern assymetric warfare brought about by state’s loss of monopoly on armed forces (insurgency, counterinsurgency)

          US military is still very much a second generation force, as evidenced by their emphasis on firepower and centralization (datalinks, AWACS) and disregard for maneuver (tanks with gas turbines, seriously?). United States have failed whenever they tried to engage in 4GW (Vietnam, Iraq) because they failed to understand the nature of such warfare – it is a war of moral and morale, not of firepower. In Vietnam, they backed a corrupt regime, in Iraq they introduced neoliberalism. Vietnam was a defeat, regardless of battlefield performance, as US failed in their goal of preventing the collapse of South Vietnamese regime; reason for defeat was that US had fought the Fourth generation war using Second generation approach.

        • Duviel said

          Ok. I see.

          It would be interesting to write about history of 4th GW. Keeping it at a pure military level for conversation purposes. The Human political side of 4th Gen. is much more complicated and deserves a conversation apart.

          Technically you can see elements very far back to include American & French revolutions in the early 19th century. I would think.

          I would think only way to succeed in putting down an insurgency is to either gain strong support of substantial (if not majority) part of local population. Or, to be completely ruthless with no care for civilian loss or human rights and at the same time deploy overwhelming numbers. You also need to maintain support of your own population.

          I think modern 4th Gen type engagements have proven that winning the initial battles is the easy part. Its maintaining long-term control of population that has been difficult. Although more politically than militarily to be honest.

          In Vietnam US most definitely backed an unpopular regime. US was also seen as continuation of hated French occupation that had been in place for many generations. The large majority of population wanted to be free from colonial powers. The N. Vietnamese and their Russian/Chinese backers were better able to take advantage of the populations hate of European Colonial occupiers and desire for independence.

          In Iraq the US did a poor job of maintaining order and institutions of state along with many other mistakes. But, no non-Islamic force would have succeeded in that tinderbox. Only way to maintain order in Iraq is to do what Saddam did. But Saddam at-least had strong loyal support of a large minority. US (or any non-islamic force) was hated by all sides.

          Only way to “win” in Iraq is to secretly (any side seen as US puppet will fail) back a local political side and allow them (more like empower them) to be ruthless against their opponents.

          I think lesson is: You cannot use force to subdue a population. Its a good outcome I believe. Its a lesson I hope will be learned by governments and power brokers worldwide.

        • picard578 said

          “I would think only way to succeed in putting down an insurgency is to either gain strong support of substantial (if not majority) part of local population. Or, to be completely ruthless with no care for civilian loss or human rights and at the same time deploy overwhelming numbers. You also need to maintain support of your own population. ”

          Agreed. But the first option is not possible if cultures are very different, while second one is impossible in modern circumstances. So in the end Western adventures in Muslim world were a mistake.

          “In Vietnam US most definitely backed an unpopular regime. US was also seen as continuation of hated French occupation that had been in place for many generations. The large majority of population wanted to be free from colonial powers. The N. Vietnamese and their Russian/Chinese backers were better able to take advantage of the populations hate of European Colonial occupiers and desire for independence.”

          Indeed.

          “In Iraq the US did a poor job of maintaining order and institutions of state along with many other mistakes. But, no non-Islamic force would have succeeded in that tinderbox. Only way to maintain order in Iraq is to do what Saddam did. But Saddam at-least had strong loyal support of a large minority. US (or any non-islamic force) was hated by all sides.”

          Yes. As bad as Saddam was, removing him was a mistake as far as peace and stability in the Middle East are concerned. Same goes for Muamar Gadaffi, or today for Bashar Al-Assad. It is a cultural problem. Islam, and by extension Muslim societies, only understand the language of force – and only accept it if used by fellow Muslims (so any Western power would have been unsuccessful unless willing to perform genocide). Turkey was an exception for some time, due to long contact with the West, but it too is sliding into radicalization.

          “I think lesson is: You cannot use force to subdue a population. Its a good outcome I believe. Its a lesson I hope will be learned by governments and power brokers worldwide.”

          Agreed. Force only stiffens resistence, unless it is capable of outright destroying that resistence. And that, again, means genocide. Which is not an ethical choice, or a practical one in modern world.

          Unless you’re a Muslim paramilitary organization like ISIS, it seems.

        • Duviel said

          I still hold hope for all of humanity, including Muslim cultures. I am not yet willing to say that Muslim societies only understand language of force. Although facts on the ground and history are not on my side on this statement.

          Fear and the instinct for self preservation are powerful and current ME societies have mostly grown under those two circumstances. But, 1000 years ago (or maybe as little as 200 years ago) Europe was maybe worse off than ME is today.

          Oil has been both a gift and a great curse to the ME. The gift has been mostly to the few the curse on the many.

          ISIS functions because it is insanely ruthless and promotes great fear. Fear is their biggest weapon right now but they had to earn that fear. Not sure any modern nation-state can realistically replicate that.

          War (any GW) is an endeavor of the rich and powerful to further their interests on the blood and toil of the masses.

          If its the US government or any other power entity its still the same. The people never gain anything from war. Win or lose, aggressor or defender we the people always pay the price, while only a powerful few ever benefit.

        • picard578 said

          “ISIS functions because it is insanely ruthless and promotes great fear. Fear is their biggest weapon right now but they had to earn that fear. Not sure any modern nation-state can realistically replicate that. ”

          They can… easily… but that would require a level of ruthlessness and cruelty that is not practical in today’s environment.

          “Fear and the instinct for self preservation are powerful and current ME societies have mostly grown under those two circumstances. But, 1000 years ago (or maybe as little as 200 years ago) Europe was maybe worse off than ME is today.”

          Maybe, but even if so, it has a lot to do with the fact that during that time ME was ruled by monarchs who recognized Islam as a threat to their power and thus supressed it. And they were quite ruthless in doing so, too.

          As I said, Islam only recognizes the language of force. That is one fact that has never changed.

          “War (any GW) is an endeavor of the rich and powerful to further their interests on the blood and toil of the masses.
          If its the US government or any other power entity its still the same. The people never gain anything from war. Win or lose, aggressor or defender we the people always pay the price, while only a powerful few ever benefit.”

          Agreed. And current Muslim agression is nothing more than an echo of Muhammed’s own greed and cruelty which wrote the Qur’an. That is why I would rate Muhammed as perhaps the history’s worst criminal.

          And even had US been sincere in their statement that they wanted to help the local populace, nothing would have changed. A Western Christian army in a Muslim country means a clash of civilizations… Muslim jihad against Christianity never really stopped, and plutocrats are skillfully using Islam as a weapon against Western democracies through mass immigration. In fact Islam, with its emphasis on obedience, servitude and hostility to critical thinking, combined with militant outlook that scares people away from abandoning it, is an ideal weapon that plutocrats can use against democracy. And they are using it right now.

          @Altandmain

          “In Boyd’s OODA loop, the Orientation part is the most important. I would argue that the orientation of Western society is fundamentally flawed. It is to benefit the few at the expense of the many right now, as rising inequality shows. In fact, inequality in the US as measured by the Gini is roughly comparable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

          You are correct that orientation is flawed today, but that is intentionally so. We see the facts (observation), but the mass media are intentionally presenting these facts in the wrong context (“poor helpless refugees” when in reality they are an invasion force aimed against Europe), so people draw wrong conclusions (orientation) and make wrong decisions.

      • altandmain said

        Picard basically nailed what I wanted to say.

        In Boyd’s OODA loop, the Orientation part is the most important. I would argue that the orientation of Western society is fundamentally flawed. It is to benefit the few at the expense of the many right now, as rising inequality shows. In fact, inequality in the US as measured by the Gini is roughly comparable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

        That drives the poor performance I would argue of the US in its wars. The people in the nations being occupied are all to aware of the real intentions of the US, which do not benefit them.

        • Duviel said

          You might have a point but, I dont think the poor performance was in war phase. The poor performance was political decisions. In actual military engagements the US military did as well as is possible. Maintaining order (after politicians decided to tear down all institutions of state in Iraq) in a nation with all the demographics of Iraq when you are a western christian army is mission impossible.

          I think you might be confusing what Boyd meant by orientation.

        • picard578 said

          “In Boyd’s OODA loop, the Orientation part is the most important. I would argue that the orientation of Western society is fundamentally flawed. It is to benefit the few at the expense of the many right now, as rising inequality shows. In fact, inequality in the US as measured by the Gini is roughly comparable to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

          You are correct that orientation is flawed today, but that is intentionally so. We see the facts (observation), but the mass media are intentionally presenting these facts in the wrong context (“poor helpless refugees” when in reality they are an invasion force aimed against Europe), so people draw wrong conclusions (orientation) and make wrong decisions.

    • Duviel said

      Most institutions lose efficiency as they grow larger. There can be benefits to being larger (other than obvious plus of being larger) but only if complacency can be overcome.

      Even within same nations military you see that smaller units usually pay better attention to detail and to abilities of individual soldier. Like Picard said, OODA loop has a lot to do with it.

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