We'll tell you all about it

The Armed Forces retain a hold on the imagination of the Swedish public. And that's despite a fall in the number of people with a direct relationship to the Armed Forces and the fact that garrison towns are today few and far between.

There's an obvious connection not only to the ever diminishing number of called up National Services personnel, but also to the dramatic fall throughout Sweden in the numbers of people who are employed, directly or indirectly, in defence related activities.

Nonetheless the Armed Forces are the focus of significant public interest, which for me, and for all of us, has to be positive.

Defence is one of the State's fundamental tasks. The obligation to retain control over a State's own territory, on land, at sea and in the air, is an essential part of international law. On this basis is established the right to bear arms.

As a supplement to the task of acting as the ultimate guarantor of a free and democratic society, the Armed Forces have been commissioned by the Swedish Parliament to contribute to the peace-keeping or peace enforcing efforts of the international community.

Such activities call for constant critical attention. in order to develop, change and reform, in order to be able to meet the challenge of the extremely difficult tasks assigned by government, the Armed Forces are in need of such critical investigation.
Does being a focus of attention sometimes involve a lot of work? Yes.

Does criticism occasionally seem unfair? Yes, indeed.
Do we do a poor job of making all the positive things done by the Armed Forces known? Yes, without a doubt.

That last question is one that has often been put to me recently. Certainly, we are less good at informing others of the fantastic feats performed by our colleagues, including the fact that we excel in our activities under conditions of continual change - which are determined by political will and other external factors.

We also find it difficult to tell of the fact that our personnel do an amazing job in both occasionally life threatening conditions and in the daily grind among the warehouse shelves, in an underground bunker or in a perfectly ordinary office.

On that point, we shall improve. But is also true that we sometimes forget that it is the individual soldier or sailor, the individual civilian administrator or stock manager, that is the best representative and communicator of our activities
Our personnel in the Armed Forces can - and should - tell others about their work. An employee should be given the opportunity to be the ambassador for our operations that is so sorely needed by the Armed Forces.

In the next year we plan to change and improve the information we provide for all our personnel in the Armed Forces. Regardless of employment status: civilian or military, employee or volunteer.

Information is knowledge, a factor of critical necessity for being able to understand, influence or inform others.

We will deliver such openness, in the manner, and in the form, in which it is required by the employee or the volunteer. By keeping our colleagues well informed we can increase the credibility of the Armed Forces and strengthen the faith of the Swedish public in our ability to manage the tasks assigned to us.

I look forward to hearing your opinions and you are always welcome to send me an e-mail.

Erik Lagersten

Footnote: Erik Lagersten is the Armed Forces' new Director of Communication and Public Affairs.