There is also a Press and Information Officer (PIO) who in this case is Eric Chamberland. He actually comes from Canada where he is Public Affairs Training Officer at the National Defence Headquarters.
In VIKING he interacts with the PIOs of the peacekeeping force commanders being exercised and gives them advice prior to their meetings with the media. As PIO at command level, he believes that one needs to think at a higher level in one’s contacts with the media. Furthermore, questions will in many cases require coordination with the legal and political advisers.
As an army officer, Eric thinks that VIKING provides commanders with very valuable experience since we are talking here about combined operations including civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) as well as legal and political questions.
In Bosnia in 2004 Eric also worked as a PIO and he thinks that the scenario for the VIKING exercise is a realistic one.
“Though when I came to Bosnia the fighting was more or less over, so it was a later stage of the conflict. It is good to experience an earlier phase.”
Military actions and political consequences
Stefan Räber’s role is that of political adviser – for BFOR in this exercise and in real life for the Swiss Armed Forces.
“A political adviser makes sure that the military action is coherent with the political intention,” he explains.
In a conflict such as that in Bogaland, there is an international will to resolve the crisis. Resolutions have been adopted and a mandate has been granted for the action to be taken. The role of the peacekeeping forces is to achieve part of these objectives by military means but they have to ensure that any military action taken remains within the political constraints.
“For example, the intelligence staff says that a school is a hide-out for terrorists and they would like to bomb it. But of course, you can’t bomb a school and then try to win the hearts and minds of the citizens.”
Gender increases operational effectiveness
Since 2004 the Swedish Armed Forces have been actively working to introduce a gender perspective into its activities through the Genderforce project. Questions still arise, however, as to how gender can be applied in practice in the missions that the Armed Forces undertake.
The Swedish Armed Forces’ Senior Gender Adviser, Charlotte Isaksson, is a member of the gaming direction team and gives advice to the five gender advisers in Bogaland.
“The aim is to integrate the gender dimension into operational activities right from the planning phase through to execution and evaluation,” says Charlotte Isaksson.
For Charlotte, participation in VIKING 08 is also a clear acknowledgement that gender is an important aspect that needs to be incorporated in the operations.
“The comment most often heard is that this goes without saying. ‘Why haven’t we worked in this way before?’. The reason why we are working to address these questions is naturally to strengthen women’s rights, but seen in a military context it also increases operational effectiveness,” she adds.