“We are a bit like guinea pigs. What we do today will set the standard for the future,” says Christoffer Brodd-Reijer, profession: NBG soldier.
This is something new. It is the first time the Swedish Armed Forces is employing soldiers for training, and then putting them on standby for a potential operation. It’s never been tried before.
The decision to take part in NBG is not a major drama in Christoffer’s private life. He made his decision during his time in military service as a conscript at the officer training regiment in Enköping, which also included training as an NBG soldier in the communications company.
“I’m actually based in the same corridor where I did my military service. The reason why I decided on this was that I wanted to do something that really mattered. I think it develops you as a person. And I know that my experience will be useful when I look for a job after this,” says Christoffer Brodd-Reijer.
His posting is as a LAN assistant in the communications company. His duties involve building a data network and supporting communications in the combat head quarters, which during an operation will lie as close to the mission area as possible.
We are sitting in a typical classroom inside the training regiment in Enköping. The benches face an instructor’s desk placed in front of a whiteboard, and along the walls there are rows of laptop computers.
Christoffer has the company of three soldier colleagues, who were also trained in Enköping.
Therese Fagerstedt was last employed as a radio journalist in Stockholm. Her task in NBG concerns PSYOPS, where the objective is to influence through information.
Andreas Stenmark has completed a special employment project as a political secretary in Östersund, and Jonas Ivansson is on leave from a civil post as a technician in the Swedish Air Force.
“The realisation that an emergency situation can soon become a reality is gaining momentum”.
For assignments in normal international operations, such as six months service in Kosovo or Afghanistan, there are laws that govern the terms of employment. An employer is not entitled to refuse leave of absence for service in such a situation. This is a regulation that is not applicable in NBG, at least not at the present time.
“If there’s no law that says that your boss must let you go, he won’t do it,” says Therese Fagerstedt. She has lived with insecure conditions of employment as a stand-in and for the limited periods that often apply in journalism.
It was different with the Swedish Armed Forces who employed Jonas.
“There is a general acceptance of going out to do international service. There’s not much collective experience of international service in the Swedish Air Force, so it was well-received when I applied.
Andreas Stenmark from Jämtland was facing unemployment when he made his decision.
“I wanted to do something completely different. When I did my military service I never thought about international service. It’s grown on me as time has gone by. But I don’t think I would have applied to NBG if I'd had a permanent job as a political secretary, instead of being employed for this special project that I've just finished.”
Not for the money
All four are agreed that their time as an employed soldier will be stimulating, and they are geared up to being called out into the field during the six months the unit is on standby. The terms of pay and insurance cover are important factors, but have not been decisive.
“I’m not doing this for the money. If you want to make a lot of money, this is the wrong choice of career,” says Jonas Ivansson.
With just a few weeks left to the start of the standby period their existence has focused on the task, the posting, the training, and the comradeship in the unit. There is a good atmosphere, even if everything is not perfect.
The equipment is a hot subject of discussion. A lot of it has still not been delivered, which means that they cannot train to the full extent with the equipment they are going to be using in real conditions. The good thing is that this means they can actually influence orders for signal equipment in consultation with the Defence Materiel Administration.
The realisation that an emergency situation can soon become a reality is gaining momentum. Everyone is geared up for an operation. If the standby period only results in six months in the barracks it would seem to have been a waste of time. They are all agreed on this. The desire to make a difference is the motivation.
Text & Photo: Ulf Petersson