For the first time since the height of Cold War, Sweden has called its entire Home Guard force – 22,000 reservists – for snap exercises. The drills were supposed to bolster country’s “defensive and operational capabilities.”
Sweden mobilized all 40 Home Guard battalions in an unprecedented exercise that has not been held since 1975. The drills marked the National Day of Sweden, celebrated on June 6.
“Our mission is to strengthen Sweden’s military defense and improve our operational capabilities,” Sweden’s Supreme Commander Micael Byden said in a statement. “We are testing the chain of mobilization for around half our organization, something we have not done since 1975.”
The main task of the Home Guard is to fulfill secondary military roles, such as patrolling and guarding important infrastructure objects, while the standing army is engaging an enemy at the frontlines. The home soldiers were seen on the streets across the country during the holiday, guarding the vital objects.
While participation in the drills was voluntary, the military expressed hopes that at least a half of the reservists would respond to the call. The nominal strength of the Home Guard is 22,000 people. The commander of the force, General Major Roland Ekenberg, said he felt great “respect for the people who voluntarily choose to participate in this exercise.”
Apart from the Home Guard, another Cold War era relic was dusted off in May, when the country issued a reprint of a brochure, dubbed ‘If Crisis or War Comes.’ The 2018 issue of the booklet contains advice on how to take shelter, what foods to stock, how to manage water reserves and, most importantly, how to tell propaganda from trustworthy information. The booklet is designed to prepare the populace for all sorts of crises, ranging from terrorist attacks to all-out war. It was the first time since 1991 that Swedish authorities distributed such a brochure to the citizens.
Last September, Sweden held massive Aurora 17 war games with the participation of foreign troops predominantly from NATO countries. Sweden is not a member of NATO and sees itself as a “neutral” country. The drills became the largest military exercise held on Swedish soil in over 20 years.