Someone to talk to


The deployment of a European rapid reaction force requires many components to be in place. This involves not simply personnel such as military and civilian experts, but also vehicles and all other materiel. Recently, the Nordic Battlegroup's (NBG) chaplains and commanders of various units of this European rapid reaction force met to discuss pastoral care.

The Nordic Battlegroup will be ready for deployment beginning on 1 January 2015. The Battlegroup is made up of approximately 2 400 individuals from seven different countries and its final preparations will take place this autumn. Some of the people preparing themselves are the Battlegroup chaplains.

Jerker Schmidt, chaplain at the NBG's headquarters, (F)HQ, describes their work as much more than simply being a religious representative.

“Chaplains are there for everyone, regardless of their beliefs, but they are also people you should be able to talk to and have faith in. We also have the opportunity to support units in various ways, for example by providing religious or cultural advice. We have experience of working with representatives from other religions and cultures through our civilian jobs. In many situations it can be important to make people aware of these issues”, says Jerker Schmidt.

Deputy Force Commander of the Nordic Battlegroup, Colonel Howard Berney, talked about his experience of international operations.

“During a deployment, and also in the preparation phase, there are many persons who seek out pastoral support from Unit Chaplains - including some who may not normally do so in other circumstances. Chaplains who provide effective pastoral care contribute greatly to the welfare of the troops concerned, enhancing individual and collective morale and, as a consequence, the operational effectiveness of the unit. In addition to pastoral care/services, the Unit Chaplain is an important component of the leadership function”, says Howard Berney.

Chaplain Jerker Schmidt says that the Swedish Armed Forces requires its employees to have personal maturity, even more so in an operational unit. It is in this respect that pastoral care personnel can be a good support.

“It is also important while making preparations to feel that there is someone with whom it is possible to discuss life and death. This occupation differs from some others in that the work may in some cases mean taking risks. Chaplains also have a responsibility for providing crisis support, both for entire units and to individuals”, says Jerker Schmidt,

“It is not only problems cropping up in the workplace that we have to deal with, there may also be problems from home that need to be discussed. We are there for everyone, regardless of their religion or origin."