"Yes, of course, once, but just imagine that it’s a regular threat. Like in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008. Every fourth year. Harried by perpetual worry and anxiety for six months, a year. Asking yourself: 'what’s going to happen?', 'is it our turn this time?' When the decision is finally announced, in the run-up to Christmas, you are just shattered. Unable to even think anymore."
Have you and your family been compelled to move because of regimental closures?
"Yes, twice. 1997, from Sollefteå to Östersund, that was supposed to be hundered percent secure against future closures, and then from Östersund exactly four years later – that is to say, with a new parliamentary defence policy review between each move."
Do you feel at risk once again?
"No, today we look out on the High Coast Bridge from the kitchen window. I work for a dispatch company, far from everything to do with the military, earn less, but I don’t need to sit with my hands clasped as the kitchen table, and, listening to the radio, watch my wife pick up her coat and just walk out… "
Why are you ringing now?
"To tell you how I feel about it all. How hundreds of my old comrades are suffering. The anxiety. The insecurity. It hurts. Thinking about family. That I was the one who put us in that situation. An officer doesn’t have many employers to choose from if he or she wants to stay in the profession."
But you were able to start over?
"As Lieutenant and later Captain I managed to fit in 16 intakes of national service soldiers. D*mn it, to realise at close on forty … I can’t do anything else. Yes, I started over. But I enjoyed working for the Armed Forces. I wanted to stay on, but all of that for a third time … No, I couldn’t do it. I chose my family".
What is that you want said?
"That we have a military that works pretty well, despite everything, but only because of endlessly loyal personnel, who pull on their boots or put on their shoes, shut their ears, and go to work with a bloody awful bad conscience – because deep inside they secretly hope that someone else’s family will suffer, somewhere else, this time. It does hurt, believe me, it does".
As Editor-in-Chief of Insats&Försvar I receive hundreds upon hundreds of e-mails and telephone calls from military employees, from other readers, national service soldiers and fellow journalists.
A question that is often posed is: "What is going on?" Sure, one scandal comes after another. Tony Stigsson, Operation Artemis in Congo … no, I haven’t the heart to list them all. I’m with the man on the telephone, it hurts.
Sometimes a stroll over to the drinks dispenser is not enough. Not even leaving the workplace, at Headquarters on Stockholm’s Lidingövägen, to go over to the neighbouring old K 1 and listen to the military bands rehearsing, or watch the mounted Guard practising, helps.
At those times, thoughts are like dark thunder clouds: Is it always going to be like this?, scandals, political wrangling over the Armed Forces and resources that never seem to be enough, decisions that always seem to result in unit closures, anxious colleagues around the country, disappointed peace-keeping-soldiers who never get the chance to see active service, young men and women who do not even get the opportunity to enrol for national service; and if they do, then it is often to different roles than those to which they were promised or to which they had looked forward.
Look for the second part of our series of articles on "The Platoon" in this magazine (page 18), and you will see what I mean. It’s one hell of a learning curve for both officers and soldiers, that is frankly quite remarkable. Soldiers who for only a few months ago were college teenagers, not infrequently with … hmmm, quite different attitudes.
With the risk looming, of making myself all too abundantly clear, I’ll end here. But, perhaps I’ll submit to the temptation of citing the magazine’s photographer, Niklas Ehlén, who, as he saw officers running besides the already exhausted national service soldiers, urging them on and on, was heard to exclaim:
"That they put up with it!"
I never could quite tell if Niklas referred to the officers doing the training or the soldiers being trained. And, maybe, that’s just as well.
At these times, I can see another reality, and find a job satisfaction, a determination and a spirit of enthusiasm that are all too easy to mislay. Fantastic men and women who make me believe in a future at work, for the Armed Forces, for our National Service men and women and for the conviction that the taxes you pay are used in the right way.