The squad history and present
That's right. This is my own story and my own view of things. I wasn't even there in those days of yore when guys played AW and Kaiz still was the CO. Let him write a more detailed history of those times if he so wishes - my comments on those are only based on hearsay.
"What the heck does that VLeLv stand for?" will probably be your first question. Before digging deeper into our little squadron's history and operational nature, let me satisfy this bit of curiosity.
Icebreakers is a Finnish squadron, consisting of Finns only (with one rather welcome exception). As "LeLv" was short for "Lentolaivue" (Aviation Squadron) in the Finnish Air Force during the era of the warbirds, we just added the "V" for "virtual" before the abbreviation. In reality the Finnish WW2 squadrons did not have names, not even nicknames - just numbers - but we do not want to pretend being the image of any real historical squadron. In fact, some of us might consider that mildly insulting to those who went through the horrors of aerial combat for real. We're a bunch of boys in WB that just wanna have fun.
How did it all start?:
The history of the squadron goes way back to Air Warrior, where a group of Finns formed a squadron called Rednosed Reindeers in the AW UK host. That name was the first CO's girlfriend's suggestion, and Finland being the only true home of Santa and his little helpers made the name quite fitting. Not to mention the red nose part which goes well with both Rudolph the Reindeer's (Petteri here) snout but also the typical drinking habits of most Finnish virtual pilots.
As it became more and more evident that the squadron strangely seemed to draw strictly Finnish pilots, the name was soon changed to FAF for Finnish Air Force at the same time when people migrated to AW US host. The reason for it was probably because the Finns have a curious and rather unique camraderie that is also tangibly evident while travelling abroad and meeting another Finnish tourist. In strange company we tend to stick together perhaps more easily than any other nationalities, automatically assuming another Finn a comrade if there's no reason to think otherwise (there ARE very profound exceptions to this, however, but we are not here to discuss sociology).
In a similar way, this camraderie extends also to our Scandinavian neighbours, especially Swedes. Although we are their beloved enemies in ice hockey and just about everything, we still have a lot in common. Both historically and in the present. Thus it was no wonder that Stef was with the squadron as a Swedish volunteer from the beginning and also Mandrome from Netherlands (well it's not Scandinavia but close enough).
As Air Warrior slowly stagnated and WarBirds hit the Net, people started to gradually migrate into ICI:s virtual skies. One by one, pilot after another found himself playing more WB than AW. Although it started very small WB was a breath of fresh air and certainly seemed to have more potential for growth. At about this time I got my Net connection and haven't looked back ever since.
The forming of Icebreakers:
After it became evident that all the FAF members had migrated to WarBirds and that there were several Finnish newbie WB pilots (like me), the CO Kaiz suggested a reform of the old FAF in WB with some fresh and eager new blood. By then I knew Kaiz well as we worked in the same computer games magazine (like Dax, who in addition had been my schoolmate and a close friend for some 15 years).
Everything was quite set for a reborn FAF to roam the virtual skies, but there was one little problem. We wanted a new name, and as you may well know, figuring out a proper name for something is anything but easy. The consensus was that the name should be in English and at the same time have the "Feel" of Finland in it.
I was one of those who contributed to this, and may be proud to say that Kaiz (and hopefully everyone else) found one of my suggestions the most suitable. Catchy, and full with associations of relentless power. What many of even our squad members do not know is that it was the result of a list of names written in jest. Well, I do most of my writing in jest anyway. "Icebreaker" is the title of a James Bond novel by Gardner that takes place in Finland. Haw.
As I happen to be a graphic designer, computer game journo being only a side job for fun, it was only natural that I ended up designing the squadron insignia. Ex nihilo nihili, and there are several reasons why it looks like it does. For starters, including the von Rosen cross of the old Finnish Air Force (which has nothing to do with the Nazi swastika and in fact predates the whole Nazi Germany) was self-evident. Besides that, I have always thought that Armoured Forces insignia that my father -an MBT commander during his conscript service- gave me when I was the size of a fire extinguisher was really cool. It had this silver armoured fist in it.
So I shamelessly copied the armoured fist and embedded the von Rosen cross on it. An armoured fist definitely breaks things. Now all we needed was something to symbolise the ice it breaks, and this was the toughest part. After several failed attempts I happened to remember the pointy toothed cross used in some Finnish military decorations and just copied it under the fist so it looked like the fist had just broken the white surface, forming a jagged blue cross of "water" into the "ice". Blue and white also happen to be the Finnish national colours. Voila!
Only later I learned that a white fist with a swastika is a symbol used by neo-nazi skinheads worldwide (boneheads to you Limeys who seem to regard this as an important detail). Ouch! But ours is not a swastika - it's a von Rosen cross.
The King is dead:
We have never been a strictly organised squadron. We do not have military ranks, nor is any other pilot regarded above any other for his skill let alone score. But on a squadnight it is a necessary evil for someone to act as the poor guy who has to lead the show to avoid utter chaos. Someone to give us an objective to fight for and take the blame if everything goes south. I would rather call it "directing" than "ordering".
Sadly, this easygoing and rather democratic attitude together with the fact that we perhaps recruited way too many eager Finnish WB pilots way too fast led to anarchy. We should have slowed down a little and should have got more acquainted with each other before rushing into the skies among strangers. The result was obvious. Those who knew each other outside WB formed their own little cliques that did what they damn well pleased. Those that did not know anybody were probably frustrated and did what they damn well pleased alone.
Kaiz faced an unacceptable problem trying to keep us guys listening to him and acting together. Despite Kaiz's valiant efforts, it deteriorated to a point where a majority of squad members didn't even bother to read squadnight plans from the squadron mailinglist beforehand. Frequently all too many squad members had to be re-briefed online, wasting some half an hour of online time. There was no radio discipline at all, and at the worst times it seemed like there was no motivation either. Absences from squadnights became more and more common.
No wonder then that during Easter 1997 Kaiz got tired of us dweebs and quit, disbanding the squad.
To many of us this was a shock. But after the initial shock and some very mature discussion (the average Icebreakers member is thirty-something) in our mailinglist everyone understood why this had happened and that something had to be done. Some of the old members who had not liked the easygoing nature of the squadron grown way too large for effective discipline (some 30 members by then) quit and formed their own squads (e.g. such as the Crashers' Club) or joined others.
The squadron was too large for anyone to shepherd alone unless everyone with us had considered carefully whether they even want to fly as a team and had the necessary motivation to participate on their own initiative. In the end, almost everyone accepted and embraced this fact and Icebreakers was reformed. The fool who was left without the chair this time was me. I should stop meddling in everything.
At first I thought that strict orders and attendance terms in squadnights would make it easier for the guys to feel more motivated. Well, I guess I was partly right. For a time very detailed briefings and assignments indeed seemed to help attendance and attention rates. From the very start I emphasized field capture and the art of organizing bombing runs with assigned targets for everyone. I always felt that field capture and thus humiliating the enemy was the main driving force for us to act together. What would be more unifying than yelling "WTG guys, WE kicked their ass again"?
But by no means am I the one to thank for this. We all had learned our lesson from Kaiz's resignment and acted like reborn. During my first months as the CO I tried to keep up a very military and strict image with preplanned ops for each squadnight, but soon found it was not necessary. After we had learned the routine of field capture and bomb runs it ran all by itself. There is seldom need to assign or order anyone to do anything anymore separately. There are certain guys who we know are good buffers and who we can rely on to do the job if need arises. Likewise, there are some hotshot jabo and fighter pilots who can be relied on to do their best when duty calls. And while very few of us are top scorers, nowadays everyone is consistently good enough at everything to allow spur-of-the-moment online operations without much consideration for "just who should do what and why".
That's why I would dare to say the Icebreakers are at the moment the most efficient field capture team in Warbirds. Although we do not have a rigid command structure and seldom (too seldom but that's due to my laziness after the initial enthusiasm as the CO) have predetermined squadnight ops, we all have a routine and act more easily as a team than perhaps some other squadrons.
Although we still are a bunch of reckless dweebs swarming chaotically the virtual skies, there is an unique espirit de corps that holds the team together. One reason to thank for this is probably our agreement of not even thinking about recruiting new squad members unless they are recommended by one of our "older" squadies. This effectively means that in most cases everyone is a friend of at least one other squad member in the real world, making the bond stronger. And we do have several get-togethers annually (or spontaneously) to strenghten the camraderie. This has also led to an amusing statistical fluke. Krug as a long-time Reindeer, FAF member, and Icebreaker is an Air Force Mechanic (and a goddamn FW dweeb like most of the "old hands") and has spread the "word" to the Air Force Academy in Kauhava and beyond. As a result, we now have three Academy flight instructors and one active fighter pilot in the squadron. Four real jet jockeys. Not bad, huh? <G>
Especially Vili, one of the flyboys, has shown promising enthusiasm and talent for commanding squadnites when I have been forced to be absent for one reason or another. Perhaps it was time for me to quietly step aside and start flying in earnest again... sigh.
Former Icebreakers CO
Editors note: The pictures among this story are not related to the story, they are just misc pictures gathered from the sq meetings and events during the past years. They were palced among this story only to amuse you and to give you something to look at (well, ok, yak) while you get bored to death by the story. (30-May-98 StuBit)