European countries learn from each other

Over forty participants from 12 European countries recently gathered in order to exchange experiences and learn from each other about successfully attract, recruit and use personnel with their main occupations lying outside of the Armed Forces (during the conference they were called ”reservists”). Sweden, namely The Military Academy Halmstad, hosted this year’s annual edition of the European Army Reserve Forces Conference (EARFC).

12 European countries took part this year – the aim is to attract even more nations to participate. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces
Chief of Army Staff, Major General Karl Engelbrektson opened this year’s conference. In his opening remarks he stressed the importance of countries with a common interest, meeting and exchanging ideas, best practices, and experiences. In the light of an uncertain world, it is important to find the best solution for manning processes for reserve forces. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces
Dynamic group reflection – Colonel Fulco Stallmann, The Netherlands, exchanging ideas on the value of using reservists and creating a better personnel system which attracts today´s youth, both male and female. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces
Brigadier Jukka Sonninen places great emphasis in the participation of the conference in order to gain knowledge and ideas to make the national service system even better in Finland. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces
Colonel Maria Gedayová from The Czech Republic was one of the participants who took the chance to discuss important questions. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces
Most likely, the baton for next year’s conference will be passed over to Germany or Denmark. This will be the fifth annual EARFC arranged. Photo: Charlotte Pettersson/Swedish Armed Forces

– Seize good ideas, feel free to “steal” them and adapt them to your conditions in each respective country, were the words of encouragement from the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Karl Engelbrektson, when he opened this year´s conference.

The Head of training in the Finnish Armed Forces, Brigadier Jukka Sonninen, is very clear in what way the reservists can contribute:
– The Armed Forces do not operate in a military vacuum.  The Reservists have a civilian network and understand how civilian society works. Therefore, sometimes they make better decisions and can even be better trained in some cases due to them having outside interests which can be of use within the Armed Forces, for example, rifle shooting.

”The Swedish Model”

As an inspiration to a number of discussions, both in sub-groups and larger forums, several appreciated lectures gave an illustration of ”the Swedish Model”. In comparison with other countries, Sweden has a relatively flexible system where different categories of personnel can be used such as home guard personnel, temporarily employed section commanders, soldiers, sailors, and reserve officers in different tasks, both in peacetime, crisis, or war. Several perspectives were highlighted, for example the Home guard´s role and tasks, The Armed Forces co-operation with other employers and the Reserve officers’ professional organisations, and the co-operation with the County Administrative Board for the use of reservists in times of crisis.

Differences, but also similarities

There are great national differences in the possibility to activate reservists. Several countries lack this category of personnel completely. There are national differences as well in the term “Reservist” – for example, in Finland the category equates in principle to that of national service in Sweden.
– There is still a great public support in Finland, 79 percent of the population according to polls, for the system of national service, explains Jukka Sonninen. We can ascertain that it is a cost effective system if one looks at the results – a system that has, and still does, serve Finland well. Despite the fact that we do not build our system on volunteers, we still want it to be attractive for the individual, with quality in the training and the exercises. Motivated individuals solve their tasks better! So, even if we have different solutions, we still have a lot to learn from each other.

Other countries have greater similarities with Sweden. In the Netherlands for example, partly the same questions crop up as in Sweden.
– We have several similar challenges, Colonel Fulco Stallmann observed. A current question is, is it possible to convert from being a reserve officer to become a full-time officer? Another interesting question is if we can gain help from external companies when it comes to recruiting and selection. It takes a lot of resources to carry out the whole process within the Armed Forces.

An appreciated and necessary conference

As the conference reached the end, it was very clear that this year´s edition had been very much appreciated.
– I would like to thank Sweden and The Military Academy Halmstad for a very well organised conference where the host has shown great hospitality, concluded Fulco Stallmann. Everyone is trying to create a system of personnel which works and we more or less come up against the same challenges. It is absolutely essential that we continue to meet and develop our international network, to learn from each other, in order to seize and spread good examples that work!