Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Getting Naykid With 'Ya Friends


If the USA deployed ~40,600 ground forces to combat, would you consider that a significant national contribution to an operation? A sign of national seriousness?

As I've mentioned a couple of times, one of our new nations who deserves a nod of the hat a lot more than it gets is Estonia. She contributed forces to Iraq and have been fighting relatively caveat free in AFG even longer. If you adjust for population size, that is her national contribution.

A great people the few I have had a chance to work with. There are though, some cultural habits that may require a little adjustment for your average American. Via the folks over at LimePhotographic;
Culturally closer to Scandinavia than Russia, they are a friendly bunch and have a mental toughness that is obvious. Most of its soldiers are physical giants.
...
As we all sat around in the evening waiting for their two chefs to rustle up a fine meal, we began to talk about the welfare facilities these guys had and the subject of saunas were raised. It turns out that they have a mobile sauna on the Patrol base ‘Wahid’………….. No really an actual sauna.

Suspiciously we enquired more to discover that in Estonian military law, every soldier must sauna at least once a week, so that although this was not possible on ‘Brekna’, an ops sauna on ‘Wahid’ was a sight to behold.

“And so it came to pass that on the last night, hosted by the Estonians, the Combat Camera Team were all sat (naked) in a fully functioning Sauna on the front line of the Helmand campaign”.
On average, mentally sharp and physically tough. A lot of their senior personnel, MAJ on up, were in the Red Army. Interesting stories from those guys. They like Russians even less that most; if you study their national history the reasons are clear.

So, look for the wee black-white-blue flag around the sauna and introduce yourself.

As a cultural side-note, their capital Tallinn is a must visit if you have a chance - and on a weird note, as one of the last European nations to convert to Christianity, they still retain some rather neat pagan traditions about such things as burials.

77 comments:

LT B said...

Did any of their women deploy over there?  Hubba hubba! 

I also have a Finnish SF friend that was over there.  We have had some help from that area, and I only wish the administration would give it some notice and treat them like friends and allies.

Navig8r said...

From a quick search I see their graves are in forests rather than fields.  Maybe a 
Druid custom?  I had a department head who had "Druid" on his dog tags for religion.  He claimed to be a Reformed Druid, rather than Orthodox.  He said they worship shrubs and bushes, in addition to trees.  I don't think that was a put-on, because he had a birth defect.  He was born without a sense of humor.

juan said...

The Scandinavian sauna obsession carried over to America. One of my best friends is from the Finnish parts of Upper Michigan where it's normal for houses to have built-in saunas.
Normally when I meet a group of guys for the first time, my first reaction isn't -- hey, let's get naked and sweat together. But each to his own. The Scandi types love their saunas about as much as they love drinking (and in Upper Michigan, ice fishing).
I visited my buddy's family up there after college. Almost everything we did that weekend mildly terrified me. From drunken ice fishing to sitting naked in the sauna with all his cousins. I try to follow a When in Rome phiilosophy, so I braved the freezing cold and the naked men. Not really planning to do either again, though. Winter and naked dudes are two things I try to avoid when possible.
The hardest thing for me to deal with with Scandi types is the amount of drinking. They all seem to have superhuman abilities to metabolize alcohol. If I even half-try to keep up with them I get blitzed out of my skull. And they don't seem to realize that most other humans can't handle that much liquor, so they're always trying to force their non-Scandi friends, like me, to have another drink.

Cdr Ashore said...

Never pass up an opportunity to get naked, I mean sauna, with the wardroom. I remember doing so with the wardroom of the USS Hawse at a port visit in Finland. The Finns also like to beat each other with birch branches while in the sauna.

This was shortly after pulling into Estonia. I think we were the first US vessel to visit the Baltic states and Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Summer of 1992.

cdrsalamander said...

"Druid" is a Celtic-Centric concept. Estonians are not a Celtic people.  Kind of like calling someone leading a Jewish service a "priest."

Also, until the mid-1800s, the Afghan Nuristani people were pagans as well.  Animist/ancestor worship.

Andy said...

You mean people actually build homes that <span>don't</span> have saunas in them?  How odd... ;)

Andy said...

Sal,
Informal field reporting from the 'Stan indicate that some of the best, i.e. most ferocious fighters, small units over there are from the Baltic states and Poland.  No knock on our Brit, Aussie, Canadian and NZ friends at all, but the countries that have contributed that either were under the Russian bootheel or fought them (the Finns) seem to appreciate the mission very much.

juan said...

Yeah, when he moved to Houston he had to adjust. So he joined a gym and now saunas with a bunch of Russians. Which apparently is a good way to make contacts in the oil business. I tried to explain that you don't need a sauna in Texas, you just go outside, but he likes to sweat in a more confined space. Texas has plenty of drinking and sweating to offer, though not much in the way of ice fishing.

ewok40k said...

A nation that was created form mix of local tribes, scandinavian colonists, German monk-knights (later secularized into gentry). They were happy to be nominal vassals of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth until Russian expansions devoured vassal and overlord alike. When empire of Tsars crumbled, they were quick to seize opportunity for independence. Unfortunately, it took only 20 years for Stalin to create empire far stronger and more ruthless and repeat conquests of Peter the Great. Finally getting another chance with another crumbling of the empire, they are quite rapidly advancing economically despite European crisis. Interesting ties quietly developed with Sweden in the defence realm show they dont count only on NATO in their quest for maintaining independence. As my nation's fate was paralllelling theirs so much, I wish them full success!

LT Rusty said...

My first class MIDN cruise, we had a USNA mid on board from Estonia.  Ethnic Russian, though - dad was a former KGB Border Guard officer, stayed behind in Estonia when the USSR went away.  Really great girl, seemed like she'd be a good officer.  No idea what happened to her later on, though.

DeltaBravo said...

Ooh he's cute!  'twould be fun to jump in a sauna with him! 

(Thinks about it.)

Naah.  He'd have to marry me first.

But he's still cute!  Thanks, Phib, for spotlighting another ally for us to admire...err... appreciate. 

cdrsalamander said...

DB has created a hostile blogg'n environment!  LT B, quick - get me my smelling salts!  AR, I have you on retainer for a reason; I want to sue!  URR, the stress is making me all ichy, please come over and loofah my stretch marks.

cdrsalamander said...

You should have married her.  I know Russian women don't age well ... but if her mother was Estonian .... yowza.  They age VERY well ..... and they will git nakid and sweat with ya at the drop of  a hat, and don't think you are weird if you turn to them as say,  "Hon, do you mind gathering that birch branch and beating me over the back with it .... " 

Just say'n ... you missed your chance.

The Usual Suspect said...

It was funny right up until the stretch marks.  I have to go scrub my eyes now.

Alo Konsen said...

I'm a first generation kid of immigrants from Estonia & Latvia. I speak Estonian, went to an Estonian-speaking summer camp in Canada as a kid, and grew up surrounded by a very proud bunch of Baltic immigrants in NE Ohio. Every one of my male relatives in my parents' generation joined the U. S. Army, with a few serving in combat in Vietnam. My dad was the oddball, joining the 82nd Airborne just in time to go get shot at in the Dominican Republic but finishing his enlistment just before Vietnam swung into gear. Me, I was even stranger … I joined the Coast Guard.

There seems to be a cultural attitude among us Estonians that can be summed up as "No, you can't make me do that, and I'll politely kick your teeth in if you try." We do love to drink hard and and socialize waaaay into the wee hours. Singing is a central part of Estonian culture, too. Just Google the terms "Laulupidu" and "Mu isamaa on minu ├Ánn" … and look up the accounts of the Singing Revolution from the 1990s.

Yes, we hate the Russians. Hate. No exaggeration. Large chunks of the Estonian population disappeared forever into the Gulag after Uncle Joe came back in 1944. We vehemently loathe communists and authoritarians of all stripes. I'm not surprised at all to see Estonian troops serving happily alongside Americans in the GWOT. America never recognized the Soviets' takeover of the Baltics, and Estonia never forgot that loyalty. Sticking it to a bunch of authoritarian holdovers from the 7th Century is a nice bonus.

Oh, and as for saunas … you do it naked as a hangover cure, preferably interspersed with quick jumps into nearby snowbanks or an icy river or lake to feel exhilarated. Works like a charm.

cdrsalamander said...

They were actually ruled by Sweden for a period of time between Russians.  They call them the "happy times."  One of the Estonian Colonels I knew told me that it was just a matter of weeks between when he took off his Red Army uniform, cobbled together a proto-Estonian uniform and then with a small team took the ferry to Sweden with a "Hey, its been too long.  Lets work together again, OK?"  He also told me the old story about watering gardens with old motor oil, i.e. A LOT of people kept old WWII weapons hidden and buried.  The first formations of the Estonian army evidently looked more like partisan units than an actual Army.  How far they came - and it was a retired US Army Colonel who I think was their first Chief of Staff.  Very interesting people with a great story.  Also, I highly recommend the Deportation Museum in Tallinn.

Alo Konsen said...

WWII lasted past 1945 for the Estonians, too. Look up the Forest Brothers. They were a headache for the NKVD & KGB. A good book on the subject is "The War In The Woods" by Mart Laar. The stereotypical "try and make me do it" attitude is endemic there.

Small wonder that I turned out to be one of those bitter clingers that King Barry the Magnificent disdains ever so much.

Aubrey said...

Tallinn is a great town, and well worth visiting - although I will offer this warning, when I was there a few years ago the hooker population rivaled Vegas...

One of my regrets from that particular trip was that I wasn't able to really get outside of Tallinn, so that was basically all I saw of Estonia (other than lunch in a small beach resort town on the way up there from Riga)

Aubrey said...

Actually double liking this....

And that museum is absolutely top notch (as is the KGB Museum in Vilnius and Occupation Museum in Riga)

Byron said...

No offense to you and your vapors, Phib, but when we get together I never have the words "stretch marks" come to mind...more like, "Greyhound" 8-)

LT Rusty said...

I know, I know.  And she had very long, very red hair.  Redder than mine, even, and that's hard to manage.  Too bad I had a GF at the time. 

Aubrey said...

I had that experience trying to keep up drink-for-drink with some RN lads in Gibraltar about ten years ago....ended up having to climb the Rock on foot to cure the hangover (it was Easter so cable cars were shut down)

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Pregnant lady stretch marks or Barney Frank stretch marks?

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

URR, if you stop by the tool crib in burrow 4, level 6, I will let you check out a Karcher pressure washer, so you get Sal squeaky clean. 

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

eh.  the Jews had priests.....and Rabbis.......at the time Christ was crucified.

Byron said...

OUCH! I felt that one!

LT B said...

Texas drinking and sweating is Friday night football!

LT B said...

I didn't make it there, but hit up the military museum in Helsinki.  Thom (Tom) was the curator, and may still be.  He got his liberty card punched and showed me around the city for the day. 

LT B said...

Loofa sponge.  Makes me laugh.  We were on the YP, and the OIC of the trip came out w/ a pink loofa.  He said, guys, I think one of the female mids came up and took a shower.  One of the officers (not me), took it and said, oops, that's mine, one must exfoliate. 

LT B said...

Geez Aubrey, you just told a bunch of sailors a "warning" wink wink nudge nudge that there were hookers there and to be careful?  I always knew where to find half the crew when they put out the "off limits" list. 

AW1 Tim said...

Sometime, I'll tell you the story of the VP-10 det to Howard AFB, Panama, when the Sandanistas overthrew Samoza. Our typical liberty regime apparently gave the AF Brigadier and his staff a case of the vapors.

AW1 Tim said...

You're a sailor, LT. You're supposed to be able to multi-task.  ;)

AW1 Tim said...

  I always cringe when I hear someone say they practice "Druidic religion" or are a "Druid". No one really knows WHAT the Druids actually did, or how they actually worshipped. We know that sacred groves were important, but beyond that, nothing outside of what Caesar wrote about them. The Romans killed off all of them, and since there was no written language, none of their ritual or customs was passed down to anyone. It's literally all gone.

Warrant Diver said...

And the women...the beautiful Estonian women. I deployed there with a 15 man mobile diving team, 10 of them single. Left with 6 still single. And all of them married women that could outdrink them and look beautiful doing it.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history....

Byron said...

Golden Bough....

cdrsalamander said...

They were actually ruled by Sweden for a period of time between Russians.  They call them the "happy times."  One of the Estonian Colonels I knew told me that it was just a matter of weeks between when he took off his Red Army uniform, cobbled together a proto-Estonian uniform and then with a small team took the ferry to Sweden with a "Hey, its been too long.  Lets work together again, OK?"  He also told me the old story about watering gardens with old motor oil, i.e. A LOT of people kept old WWII weapons hidden and buried.  The first formations of the Estonian army evidently looked more like partisan units than an actual Army.  How far they came - and it was a retired US Army Colonel who I think was their first Chief of Staff.  Very interesting people with a great story.  Also, I highly recommend the Deportation Museum in Tallinn.

cdrsalamander said...

... and today's date is ....

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Here's a piece of triva for you!  The Skinner Uniflow engines used in the CASABLANCA class CVEs used loofahs as filters in the condensers, to filter out engine oil.

pk said...

hell man the chaplain reading the "off limits list" as we pulled into a town was suprisingly well listened to. he just didn't realize why.

pk said...

was the girlfriend in another town?

C

byron's internet daddy said...

and the pentagon sauna is still ooc. 

James said...

You know funny thing about the kelts everyone seems to love to make them look like a brave noble warrior people OK. But they also like to take the skulls of their enemies home....can we do that now?

James said...

We had a sauna on post at the place i worked out with my stepdad in Huntsville i went in there every morning was great.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Just lettin ya know, Salamander, ol' pal. 

I will loofa your stretchmarks with a wire wheel and a Black and Decker power drill. 

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Wire wheels we have in the tool crib, but the drills are all Milwaukees. You want B&D, you gotta bring yer own.

Kristen said...

That's what I love about this place.  I never have any idea, as I step onto the porch, what the topic of discussion is going to be.  And the comments lead off into all kinds of unexpected directions, too.  DB in a sauna with a heavily armed Estonian...did NOT see that one coming.  :-D

Dave Foster said...

...no one knows who they were, or what they were doing...

UltimaRatioRegis said...

I am not picky.  I can use a Mil.  5/8 drive.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Finally, someone who gets it!!!

You, sir, go up to eleven.

DeltaBravo said...

And such nice arms! Sgt. Estonian Eyecandy looks to be carrying a 7.62mm Galil sniper with a Nimrod 6x40 scope.  How cool is that?!  (Hear tell Galils come with built-in bottle openers and wire cutters. Party on dudes!)

Dave Foster said...

Every chance I get!

LT B said...

What is Shore Patrol duty the first night in?   Scouting mission!

LT B said...

Shelly Belly is ready to file a complaint of a hostile work environment just for you Phib, whether you want one or not! 

LT B said...

Finland bounced between Russia and Swedish occupation.  I liken them to the Koreans.  They tend to be less outgoing then their neighbors as everybody kept coming in and occupying them.  Swedes:Finns as Japanese:Koreans

DeltaBravo said...

On a semi-related topic... why does it seem people are taller the further north you go? 

Kristen said...

Dunno, DB, but I have Scandinavian ancestry and I'm 5'7, which is about average for the females in my family.  The men are all pretty much 6' or taller.  And we're all fair-skinned, blue-eyed blonds too.  Sometimes stereotypes really do apply.

Kristen said...

Dang, girl.  You really are from Texas, aren't you?

Grandpa Bluewater said...

The snow gets deeper the further north you go, and the survivors had to be tall enough to see the wolves coming in the winter.

Tactical warning, reposition to meet the threat, stuff like that.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Galil rifles are 5.56x.223 .  They shoot the standard NATO cartridge even though they look similar to a Kalashnikov AK-47.  I thought that the scope was a Trijicon ACOG but I may be wrong.  

The fact that you know calibers and scopes is hugely attractive...if I were single ;)

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Area Codes....

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Had the honor of "participating" in a meeting between some SEALs and MARSOC Marines on certain acquisition requirements within my knowledge area.  they got to talking about the Estonians and their SOF contribution to the Stan campaign, and how impressed they were with not only them but their relative level of contribution.  Their SOF numbers are very small, and they are there for months each year.  It is humbling to know what our new allies are willing to sacrifice.  I hope that we can be there for them as well.

LT Rusty said...

5.56 x 45, or .223 Rem.  Not 5.56 x 223.  

If you want her to notice you, you gotta get your calibers correct.   8-)

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

YAY, KRISTEN!  I, too am a 5'7" Scandanavian, but I have gray eyes.

ewok40k said...

there IS upscaled 7,62x51 version of Galil, just like the SCAR, originally intended as sniper rifle, but adopted by those users who want the extra range and stopping power - both a nice thing to have in AFG, methinks...

Byron said...

"<span>The snow gets deeper the further north you go, and the survivors had to be tall enough to see the wolves coming in the winter. "</span>
<span></span>
<span>Unless you're a Scandahoovian gopher like old Scott up there 8-) </span>

Byron said...

You're back, troll? Need another butt kickin'?

DeltaBravo said...

It's also NATO compatible. 

Kristen said...

I like a man who can come up with a theory in a hurry.  The short ones were eaten by wolves, eh?  Now there's a benefit to being tall that I had never considered.  :)

Kristen said...

Byron, you bad boy.  He's going to come right back and call you a Seminole.

Byron said...

Kristen, he'd only call me a Seminole ONCE :)

DeltaBravo said...

Spent all night wondering if I was potential wolf chow or if GBW was playin' with my head. 

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Yep, wolf chow, if they have any taste in women!!!  ;)

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

I should like to point out that badgers are NOT gophers, we are weasels.

Hans de Vreij said...

@DeltaBravo: The Netherlands is located to the South of the Scandinavian countries (and the Baltic states), but on average has the tallest population in the world. Why? Nobody knows for sure but among the many reasons given two score high: an excellent public heath system and a large consumption of calcium-rich diary products (milk, cheese etc.) 
As to the average heigth of Dutch SF operators, I have no idea whether that surpasses the average or not.  Those that I met in the course of my work as a defense reporter were not particularly tall (nor short).

Hans de Vreij
The Netherlands

(PS: the fact that rougly a quarter of my country's surface is below sea level is no explanation for the average height.... watching the dikes doesn't make you grow. Wolves have disappeared a long time ago...)

Picture: operators of the Dutch Royal Marine Corps Special Forces (the counter-terrorism unit 'UIM', to be precise). Took the picture in the Gulf of Aden, were they acted as boarding parties during counterpiracy ops

cdrsalamander said...

Hans,
Good cheese does wonders for the body ... but my vote is the inate attractiveness of tall Dutch women's legs ....

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