Viking 18: Laurea participates in the evaluation of the world’s largest computer-aided crisis management exercise

The word’s largest crisis management exercise, Viking 18, was arranged in six countries in April, with altogether 2,500 participants. RDI expert Petteri Taitto from Laurea worked as the assistant manager of the organisation that evaluated the exercise.

Viking 18 was a crisis management exercise arranged by the Swedish Defence Forces and the Swedish Folke Bernadotte Academy, running from 16 to 26 April. The largest exercise of its kind in the world, Viking 18 had 2,500 participants from over 60 countries and 35 different organisations. The organisations included, among others, the UN, EU and NATO. In addition to Sweden, the computer-aided exercise was carried out in five countries: Finland, Brazil, Ireland, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Arranged for the first time in 1999, this was the eighth Viking exercise. The objective of the exercise is to prepare civilian, military and police actors to respond to the requirements of today’s multidimensional, international crisis management and peacekeeping operations.

This year’s Viking exercise was also attended by experts from Laurea. RDI expert Petteri Taitto from Laurea was in charge of evaluating the civilian operations of the exercise. 

Mr Taitto started at Laurea in January 2017. He has over 10 years of previous experience in various tasks related to crisis management and civilian crisis management training. Before starting at Laurea, he worked at the European Security and Defence College (ESDC) in Brussels.

An evaluator assesses the implementation of the exercise

- My post during the Viking exercise was Enköping, Sweden, where the command post and command centre were located, Mr Taitto explains. 

- During the exercise, I also visited Ireland, where about 200 people participated in the exercise. At the preparation stage, I also had the opportunity to visit Serbia and Bulgaria to see how they prepared for the exercise.

The purpose of the evaluation is assessment of the implementation of the exercise by an external party. 

- Our job was not to evaluate whether the participants succeeded or failed in their job. Instead, we assessed whether the exercise served its four main goals: cooperation between civilians and solders, the efficiency of new concepts, the efficiency of the leadership systems as well as the building of trust between the actors, Petteri Taitto describes. 

During the exercise, Mr Taitto and 30 other evaluators gathered observations, using specified evaluation questions. In addition, they monitored the documentation and reporting of the exercise. The final evaluation report was completed in June, so the evaluation assignment lasted for approximately one year. 

The exercise was based on a fictional scenario in a country called Bogaland. This scenario has been present in every Viking exercise since 1999, deepening and expanding along the way. 

- The scenario includes all information on Bogaland: the administrative structures, the background of the conflict and any other possible information. Various materials, such as websites, video clips, interviews and protocols, built an authentic environment for action in the exercise that ran for ten days, Mr Taitto explains.

Evaluation as Laurea’s special expertise

Security is one of the strong areas of Laurea’s RDI activities. The Viking 18 exercise combined two areas of expertise: evaluation and crisis management. For instance, from 2016 to 2019, Laurea has been in charge of the evaluation of 28 European rescue exercises and, in 2015, the evaluation of the international Barents Rescue 2015 exercise. 

- Our expertise in crisis management and humanitarian activity was the most important reason why we were invited to evaluate the Viking exercise, Petteri Taitto says.

- Another strength is that, as an educational establishment, we are a neutral stakeholder in this context. Many other evaluators engage in the training of others and participate in crisis management.

The Viking 18 exercise also provided Laurea with valuable knowledge for the development of evaluation competence, that is, how to systematically develop the evaluation process and questions so that the evaluation serves the overall objectives of the exercise in the best possible way.

- Laurea’s security expertise is very broad, and it can be used for the evaluation of multi-agency cooperation or crisis management exercises. Research and development projects may be used for the analysis of the material collected in connection with evaluations, and the analysis can also be included in teaching, Mr Taitto summarises.

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