Pliktrådet, an organization representing Sweden’s conscripted soldiers, has expressed serious concern over the ongoing shortages of equipment and personal gear for conscripts. Despite previous warnings, the lack of adequate equipment remains a significant problem, according to Pliktrådet’s Chair, Alice Nilsson.
One of the major issues is the lack of underwear suitable for female conscripts, resulting in chafing and discomfort. Pliktrådet has also encountered outbreaks of impetigo and chickenpox due to conscripts being soaked for several days without proper rain gear and boots. Additionally, soldiers have had to borrow clothes from each other, potentially contributing to the spread of infections. Some soldiers have even been forced to purchase their own equipment, which is not allowed.
These are just some of the serious equipment and gear deficiencies that Pliktrådet has identified, despite previous warnings. The most urgent problem is the shortage of protective eyewear. Pliktrådet has seen examples of conscripts being instructed to ”shoot by feel” or without protective eyewear because they were issued incorrect glasses that fogged up.
Alice Nilsson believes these deficiencies are unacceptable and jeopardize both the safety of conscripts and the effectiveness of military operations. She argues that it is embarrassing that the defense forces are unable to provide the necessary equipment for those who are conscripted and obligated to undergo military training.
The issue of equipment shortages is not new. Pliktrådet raised concerns about the lack of gear, particularly for women, hearing protection, and eye protection, as early as 2019. In the fall of this year, they once again sounded the alarm, especially regarding the lack of waterproof boots for conscripts.
While some immediate actions, such as the procurement of rain gear and boots, have been taken, Alice Nilsson is critical of the delays in finding long-term solutions. She believes it should be possible to plan equipment orders in advance, considering the number of conscripts expected in the coming years.
Regarding underwear specifically designed for women, the Swedish Armed Forces have stated that it will be included in the new uniform system to be delivered in 2024. However, given past unfulfilled promises, including the delayed delivery of body armor for women, Pliktrådet is skeptical of the solutions being presented.
The shortage of equipment within the Swedish Armed Forces has been an ongoing issue, despite additional funding allocated in the 2015 defense decision. The problem has worsened as the number of conscripts has increased and has adversely affected the quality of training, according to Pliktrådet.
Efforts have been made to address the problem, such as collecting gear from employees to distribute to conscripts and officer recruits. The Commander-in-Chief, Micael Bydén, announced on September 5th that both conventional and extraordinary measures would be taken to resolve the issue. However, he emphasized that the problems would not have a quick and easy solution.
In late September, the government tasked the Swedish Armed Forces with reporting on the progress of acquiring personal equipment. These reports will be submitted quarterly in 2023 and 2024.