It is a little cold. Hundreds of families and friends have therefore gathered inside the exercise hall to see their loved ones receive medals from the Supreme Commander, Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Göran Mårtensson or Naval Tactical Commander, Brigadier General Ola Truedsson. Some will also be awarded the Dutch medal for international operations by the Dutch Brigadier General Richard Oppelaar.
The ceremony starts
One by one members of the force receive their medal.
"Unfortunately as the Minister for Defence is unable to attend today, he has requested me to express his sincere gratitude and appreciation to you in ME 04. You have conducted a great operation in Adenviken and the Indian Ocean. This is because you put your safety and comfortability in the second place and owing to the support from all family and friends you have been able to conduct such a successful operation," says General Sverker Göranson.
Five months at sea
Even though the unit in its entirety was away from Sweden for almost five months, most members of the unit were relieved half-time. On the other hand, some members had to go the entire way, conduct all operations and experience the coastal states in the area. Sergeant Johan Pettersson served as head of combat boat and was supposed to return home after half of the operation, but due to personal reasons his substitute was unable to participate. Then he was asked whether he wanted to stay.
"I enlisted voluntarily. Partly because I enjoy being on ships and partly because I did not have any partner waiting at home for me. But of course it was a bit of a shock when I realised that I would be away twice as long as I had planned," says Johan.
Integrated with the Netherlands
The Swedish contribution to the operation was integrated with the Dutch contribution. This means that Sweden and the Netherlands planned and conducted tasks together – at all levels. Lieutenant Colonel Anders Åkermark is head of the Swedish contingent and was directly subordinate to the Dutch commander.
"Collaboration with the Netherlands grew over the course of the journey and the results are striking. They far exceed expectations. We can collaborate on so many levels without any friction," says Anders.
The ceremony moves towards its closing. The Supreme Commander,
Chief of Joint Operations and Naval Tactical Commander take the opportunity to thank every individual. Anders Åkermark expresses his gratitude not only for his unit, but also for those who made the operation possible.
"Our family and friends are the real heroes. They have taken care of the house, home and children and they have been fantastic. Without them this would not have been possible," says Anders.
Craving the Falun sausage
A well-deserved leave of absence awaits the unit soon and for many it is time to make up for all the things they missed out on over recent months. Johan Pettersson spontaneously thinks of something.
"When you are a part of the operation for so long you start missing doing what you want and mainly basic things – everything from going to shop for the food you want and sitting in front of the TV and eating it in peace and quiet. Right now I am craving the most for Falun sausage and macaroni in white sauce," says Johan.
A quiet spring rain starts to fall outside the exercise hall. Out on Hårsfjärden white geese start to appear on the waves and the wind starts to intensify. Suddenly the soldiers, officers and specialist officers from ME 04 start pouring out of the premises. They are not alone. They have their loved ones with them and they will get to go home soon.