HELSINKI, Finland –
Three medals, a few bumps and bruises, and plenty of stories are leaving NATO’s newest member state, Finland, and headed back to the United States.
U.S. Army and Air Force Reserve service members competed in the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers Military Competition, or CIOR MILCOMP, in Helsinki, Finland, June 27-29, 2023.
CIOR is the world’s largest and oldest military reserve organization and has goals of providing advice on reserve issues to the NATO military community, promoting the role and importance of reserve forces in NATO and national level, and fostering the professional development of reserve officers, according to their website. It is open to all reserve components for both NCO and officer and each year has a theme. This year, it is credibility and readiness.
“The MILCOMP is so important, because we are training our military skills,” said Maj. Sterling Broadhead, from Layton, Utah, and seven-year competition veteran. “We’re competing against each other, but we’re cheering each other on, and that is why I love this competition.”
Broadhead competed on a multinational team, placing second in the international team category.
“We’re quite a diverse group, with the competitor from Norway is in his 50s, I’m in my 40s and the guy from the Netherlands is in his early 30s, so we had a wide range of age and background.” said Broadhead, who fills the role of US joint officer in charge. “I’ve done all the categories from novice to international, and it’s hard to decide which years are better than others because they’re all unique, but I would not trade this experience.”
CIOR MILCOMP dates to 1957 and is three-day military team pentathlon, consisting of pistol and rifle shooting, an obstacle course, utility swimming (with obstacles - while wearing the host nations camouflage uniform) and orienteering with additional tasks, to include range estimation, map reading and grenade throwing, in teams of three. This year, 100 service members competed from 10 NATO and Partner for Peace nations.
“Our team met for the first time about seven or eight weeks ago,” said Sgt. Conner Williams, Army Reserve military police officer with the 800th Military Police Company and first-time competitor. “Everyone on my team is either prior or current law, so we had a pretty good dynamic.”
Williams’ background lent to certain events in the competition but said that was not the highlight of his experience.
“My favorite event was shooting the host nation’s weapons,” said Williams, whose team name was The Flying Pigs. “One memory I’ll take from this is meeting new people from around the world.”
Team U.S. had many successes throughout the competition, which include a second place finish in the experienced category and also a team member on the winning international team, despite mild sickness, jet lag, and for most people, having seen the NATO obstacle course for the first-time in Sweden one week prior to competition.
“That train up at Fort Dix allowed us to get to know each other, then we went to Sweden, and getting their perspective and technique definitely helped us hone our skills,’ said 1st Lt. Brianna Mirmina, a first-year competitor and team captain. “If you’re looking for something to challenge you, and make you better, then join CIOR and see what it’s about.”
Expecting 600 reserve and non-commissioned officers, representing 34 allied and partner nations, some were excited for Finland to host this year’s Summer Congress, comprising the Interallied Confederation of Medical Reserve Officers, Interallied Confederation of Reserve Non-Commissioned Officers, the Military Competition event, the Young Reserve Officers Workshop and the CIOR Symposium.
“We started to focus on this in 2019 as a Partner for Peace country,” said Capt. Saku Liehu, of Finland and 2023 MILCOMP director. “It’s an honor to be here in three months as a NATO member, and as always, we have had such good relationships.”
Putting on events like these takes time and a group effort.
“We put out information last spring that we need people here to come help us, and we received 58 reserve officer volunteers from the federation,” said Liehu, a former competitor himself. “I couldn’t have imagined it would go this well.”