Friday, May 29, 2009

Snow and other events

Is it still May? I almost can’t believe it. So much has happened; the snow yesterday almost made me believe fall had begun again.

Yes, it actually snowed yesterday. It’s times like those you know you are far north; the sun never goes down, it is late in May, and it SNOWS. The alarm that woke me up also made me do some strange choices in clothing and packing my backpack. I put cotton pants on, and not the membrane, and put wool pants in the backpack instead of a wool sweater. Marching up the mountain through moist bushes and melting snow, we did get wet.

It was the great final in our week of war technique. We spent every day outdoors, and did many cool tasks, including hiding in the woods, throwing grenades, attacking enemy positions with the squad, physical tests and a 15 km run fully equipped, and lots of other fun. It was tiring, though; especially since I had another 15 km run the day before this circus started.

Hike the seven mountainsThe annual trip over the seven mountains that surround Bergen was held the same day as I was returning to the cold north. As I had to make it to my airplane departure, I only had time for the short version, four mountains. One of my best mates and me started tough; we knew we had a tight schedule. But we might have gone a little too hard; my not-so-used-to-travel-far-distances-by-foot friend had a hard time the last two thirds of the distance.

Before I came to Bergen to walk the mountains and enjoy some time with old friends, I was in Lourdes, France, at the International Military Pilgrimage (PMI). Although I’m not a catholic, it was an absolutely tremendous experience. I don’t want to write too much about it at this blog, as we have created another blog dedicated to the trip (unfortunately for my international audience, it is in Norwegian only). If you understand Norwegian, I strongly encourage you to visit it.

That was all for now. Till next time – enjoy life! (It may take a while, as I am supposed to work on my exam in philosophy the next week, and more exams are to come)

Read more:
BT: Slik var 7-fjellsturen (Norwegian)
Our blog from PMI: Pilegrimsblogg (Norwegian)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Going to Afghanistan

I read a story in the major Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet today about a few young soldiers that were to serve in Afghanistan for the first time this summer. One of them said this about his motives: “I go because of the money, the action, (Norwegian: opplevelser) and the experience (Norwegian: erfaring).”

Norwegian soldier in AfghanistanBeing a soldier in the Norwegian Army myself, I feel like I know these guys, even though I’ve never met them. Not only because we wear the same uniform; also because I recognize their attitudes towards service in a foreign country. Unfortunately, I’d say, these are the most common reasons for applying for service abroad.

Now, I was a little unfair in the translation of the word “opplevelser.” If directly translated, this word also means experience. But not in the same sense as “erfaring” does. While “erfaring” contains the wisdom gained and lessons learned from an experience, “opplevelser” is the feelings, excitement and actual events of the particular experience. Thus, translating “opplevelser” into “action,” comes from the assumption that those events he has in mind will fit perfectly into Black Hawk Down.

Nevertheless, I’m sorry that these are his motives. It is not necessarily that these motives are evil in and of themselves, by no means; or at least as long as “experience” doesn’t involve getting himself a dead terrorist (which unfortunately is the case way too often. I don’t know about these guys, though). But how much better would not the world have been if people fought for what they believed in, rather than for personal purposes?

Now, Norwegian soldiers are probably among the most updated on the political situation in both Afghanistan and Norway, and great effort is made to secure that soldiers know which war they are fighting. Yet, it is obvious that to us in the military, these updates are more like good excuses for continuing to build experienced officers and soldiers, than they are actually motivating people to fight.

I am not saying there are no good reasons to fight against Taliban. If somebody have this inner need to help people in need, or can tell me how much damage Taliban does, and show how passionate they are about freeing Afghanistan from this terror, I encourage them to fight in Afghanistan. But in the Norwegian Army, these are unfortunately seldom found.

Since the conflict in Afghanistan is far away in distance and has nothing but a vague relevance to average Joe, those passionate about the situation usually fight the war through what may seem like more influential platforms of non-violent engagement or politics. They can like or dislike or even direct the military, but they are not the military, and they don’t want to be.

One could also imagine that one fought because of a political obligation. As a member of NATO (and UN, who authorised the ISAF force), Norway is dependent on helping allies in their wars in order to get help if the enemy suddenly comes. Soldiers with such insight may also want to contribute to the NATO forces. But though there are a few honourable examples of these in Afghanistan, most soldiers with this attitude, as myself, are not very eager to fight, and avoid it if possible. Thus they hesitate to apply for service abroad, leaving the spaces open for those who actually want to fight.

As if that wasn’t disturbing enough before we gave them guns.

MedicThis is not a call to withdraw from Afghanistan. This is neither a call for sensible people to go there. Having said that, the only guy I really know myself that goes to Afghanistan this year, is one of the most impressive personalities I know, and I very strongly supports his decision. He has the inner urge to heal the wounded, like any true warrior of Agape should have, and he chose to do so through the military.

Read more:
Dagbladet: Slik forbereder norske soldater seg på å dø (in Norwegian)
Wikipedia: ISAF