The Force Commander, Brigadier General Stefan Andersson, has great respect for the power of the media. That is why he decided that the Nordic Battle Group should possess the skills to work together with the media. He also decided that media training should be included in the exercise Joint Action. On a daily basis the units are trained in how to handle the media and to give interviews.
“It is important that people have an understanding of what we do and what our role is in our society. They need to know what we do and why we do it. That is one of the reasons to why people who work in the Swedish Armed Forces need to be able to represent us and to describe our work in a way that is understandable”, says Björn Westerdahl who works as an information officer and is an educator in this training program.
During the exercise the different units are visited by fictional news reporters and television teams that are asking questions about their work and their role in Joint Action. “We focus on people that have a leading position. As commander you also have a responsibility when it comes to information and communication”, says Björn Westerdahl.
Nervous in front of the camera
“Anyone who has been in front of a TV camera knows that it can be a little nerve-racking. This exercise is supposed to take the edge of and provide the opportunity to get used to these types of situations”, Björn continues.
The questions asked by the fictional reporters involve everything from the overall development of the mission to the smallest details regarding operations in progress. “As commander you need to be able to respond to these kinds of questions without giving away information that says too much about the wrong things. After each interview we evaluate what was a success and what needs to be improved. We talk about what has been said, body language and eye contact, says Björn Westerdahl.
“It is very important that the body language is in sync with the actual words that you say. There is definitely a need for this kind of training and it is something that needs to be done continuously”, says Richard Kjaergaard, who has been working with the television interviews this past week.
PAO – a valuable support
During the week the fictional news teams has performed about twenty interviews with officers, soldiers and Public Affairs Officers (PAO). “The Public Affairs Officers is a valuable support regarding media and communication. If the officer in charge in not available the PAO can handle the situation”, says Captain Annika Ivner who is in charge of the media relations training during the entire exercise series.
Lieutenant Andreas Winborg is one of the people who have been interviewed in the past week. “No problems. It’s fine as long as you stick to what you know. The hard part is to translate what you want to say into English. It is easy to get stuck.”
The news affects the exercise
De fictional news teams consist of Information Officers and Information Soldiers. They produce articles based on the interviews and send them back to the units. The news are also sent to the tactical command centre of the Nordic Battle Group where they become a part of the exercise scenario.
“It is very educational to see how our work affects the work of the units and how important the relationship between the media and the units are”, says Rebecka Fröling who works as an Information soldier.