A night outdoors in a storm, zero free time, lots of laughter and a strengthened self-confidence. These are some of the experiences that have so far happened to Kajsa and Patrik, recruits in Norrbotten’s regiment, I 19.
This summer, just over 560 people moved in to do military service in Boden. Two of them are Kajsa Lindqvist from Sundsvall and Patrik Meyer from Stockholm. They are both 19 years old so they arrived at Norrbotten’s regiment, I 19 shortly after graduation.
– I had no idea what I was going to do up here so I was very nervous. But already the second day I had found friends so I was lucky, says Kajsa.
They are here for eleven months, of which the first three were dedicated to basic military training. There they learned everything that every soldier should be able to do and there was a great variety with both theory and practical exercises.
– The most fun was when we had to train different movements with weapons and shoot blanks in the forest, says Patrik.
But not everything have been easy, of course there have been difficult times.
– In the beginning, I must admit, it was pretty tough. You are almost never yourself, have almost no privacy and are thrown in with a lot of completely new people. But now I think it’s great fun. I have come very close to my group and we invent things outside of service time, says Kajsa.
Patrik remembers back to the day of survival, when they were to build a group hives of branches and spruce twigs to sleep in and it rained and thundered all night.
– It got very wet and it was probably the hardest thing we have done so far, but at the same time they did it together and laughed at it afterwards. When the hard work is done, you mostly think it’s cool and fun, says Patrik.
Now they are a few weeks into the job training for group manager for the brand new GRKPBV 90 (grenade launcher armored car 90), which in practice is a Combat Vehicle 90 with built-in grenade launcher. On this day, they will run an obstacle course in the terrain for the first time.
– I think it feels very exciting. I have been dreaming about this day since I got my result in January, says Kajsa.
Tanks roll out rumbling on Boden’s southern shooting range under a rainy gray autumn sky. Through hatches on top of the vehicles, Kajsa and Patrik’s heads stick out and they talk to the crew with the microphones of the helmets.
– The drivers get to learn to drive in slightly more difficult terrain and we guide them because we have a little better supervision where we sit. I will make sure that the trolley is driven in a safe way when we move and I will also make sure that we shoot in a safe way. We have not been allowed to shoot yet but it will come and it will be cool. It is very fun so far and I just think it will be more fun, says Patrik.
A muddy path runs around the field and the carriages take turns driving around and overcoming various obstacles, pits and hills. Here the challenge is to take it as calmly and safely as possible so that everyone in the carriage can do their job without slipping around. Kajsa’s smiles are greatest when the carriage reaches the top of a mound of earth and begins to turn downwards.
Kajsa was one of a record number of girls who joined the military this year and she feels that the gender-neutral compulsory draft has made it more normal for women to join the military. Even though she herself was not obliged but applied voluntarily, it was all the talk about the military that made her take the step. Her father is in the Hemvärnet and has many stories from the Armed Forces and she looked forward to being able to share the experiences with him. And so she wanted to challenge herself and see what she went for.
– What I will take with me is that I can do more than I thought when I started. Partly mentally but also with team spirit and leading, I have only noticed this in these few months. I endure more than I thought, now I have proven it to myself, says Kajsa.
Patrik has always been interested in joining the military, he volunteered and thought that Boden sounded like a good alternative when he received the proposal. Both are satisfied with their experiences of the Armed Forces so far.
– I think it has been great. It has been tough, it has been fun, sometimes you have felt bad, sometimes you have laughed, cried, everything. It has been very exciting to always have the feeling that anything can happen, says Kajsa.
– I was hoping to meet a lot of new friends and I did. I think it’s all very good, says Patrik.
In their free time and on free weekends, they usually hang out with their friends at the soldiers’ home or accommodation, go down to town and eat or maybe play bowling. Among other things, they have visited the Armed Forces Museum and Patrik is fascinated by how marked the city is by the Armed Forces.
– I think Boden is a very cozy little town. I like when you can go to everything – go and have coffee, go and chew, go to town. It is very quick to get around, says Kajsa.
She visited Boden for the first time when she competed in the O-ring in 2013, but then she mostly saw the forests around.
– I think the forest is very important to have close to. To be able to easily go out for a walk, run, ski or just be in the woods, I think is generally cozy, she says.
What both Kajsa and Patrik are most looking forward to are the big winter exercises after the turn of the year.
– Boden is a winter city and we are on a subarctic unit so to see how the tanks and how we perform during the winter will be really exciting, and to experience this cold winter that I have heard you have, says Kajsa.
– Now we are very individual and everyone learns their thing. It will be cool when everyone starts doing things together, when we work together the whole battalion, says Patrik. #