TURKU, Finland (NNS) — U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet Master Chief Raymond D. Kemp, Sr. visited with members of the Finnish navy July 19-22, 2017, further solidifying the enduring relationship shared between the two partner nations.
Kemp was invited to their Navy Command in Turku, an experience he called humbling when he arrived to the American flag flying above their base in honor of his arrival.
“It was surreal,” said Kemp. “I am from a pretty humble background and for the national ensign to be flying in honor of my visit, I was truly humbled.”
The American flag flying was just a taste of the welcoming Kemp said he received from the Finnish sailors.
“I was very warmly received and could feel the sincerity in the hospitality,” said Kemp. “It was as if we were long-time friends and as I thought about it, our partnership is certainly enduring.”
Kemp’s visit started with a meeting with Finnish Capt. Pekka Varjonen, chief of personnel division, including a presentation about the Finnish navy’s non-commissioned officers (NCO) education and training program and to share leadership techniques.
“I was particularly interested in the NCO studies, their training program, obligation of service, and which skills translated to civilian certification and licensing,” said Kemp. “There are many different styles and techniques to leadership and we discussed opportunities to share course work, instructor/facilitator guides, and a chance to visit the Finnish Naval Academy.”
Following the NCO presentation Kemp had an office call with Capt. Timo Hirvonen, the base’s chief of staff, where the two quickly found common ground as participants in exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2017.
“The captain and the admiral both participated in BALTOPS and spent time in the U.S.,” said Kemp. “We had plenty in common which led to ease of conversation.”
The visit continued as Kemp went to tour one of the country’s Rauma-class missile boats, attached to the Finnish navy’s 6th Surface Warfare Squadron, and a Katanpaa-class mine countermeasure ship, attached to the country’s 4th Mine Countermeasure Squadron.
The Missile boat and the minesweeper are very capable vessels, and crews are well trained,” said Kemp.
Kemp also had the opportunity to see one of their Jehu-class landing craft during his visit praising the craft and likening it to a luxury car.
“The Jehu-class landing craft was awesome, that boat road like a Cadillac Coup Deville,” said Kemp. “With the latest technology and upgrades I am sure the Finnish marines will enjoy the new delivery craft.”
After the first-hand look at some of the Finnish navy’s capabilities, Nyland Brigade, Dragsvik Garrison, hosted Kemp at their officer’s club where he met with Finnish navy Capt. Kjell Torner, the brigade commander.
“Capt. Torner provided an interesting tour of the Garrison facilities,” he said. “His brief on the conscription training and training team was extremely interesting.”
Conscription, or drafting, is the obligatory enlistment of people into military service. Conscripts refer to the person “drafted.”
Kemp said his time visiting with the sailors of the Finnish navy was an incredible experience and emphasized the professionalism they showed him. He said it was an experience he soon won’t forget.
“The conscripts were extremely professional and respectful, reminded me of our Sailors going to Boot Camp Training; seemed much more like volunteers than compulsory service,” said Kemp. “I met them on the gun line and had good conversation with several of them as they completed training.”
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, to enable enduring relationships and increase vigilance and resilience in Europe and Africa.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.