The Norwegian Home Guard is a reserve military made up of Norwegian male conscripts and female volunteers. The main focus of the ‘local military’ is to maintain infrastructure during wartime and is geared towards sabotage, ambushes and guerilla warfare. The Home Guard is actually modeled after the original organised resistance during WWII.  Each district of Norway has their own Home Guard division and for the last ten years they have been slowly creating volunteer ‘task forces’ with specialist training.

Pictures: Norwegian Armed Forces emblem.  (Above) A Home Guard from a battalion in Telemark.  (Love the watch!)

The Norwegian Home Guard has been a controversial topic in recent years. There are two thoughts:
First is whether conscription is needed anymore and therefore should be abolished and second, because Norway is an ‘equality’ centred country, women should have conscription too.

There are a lot of Norwegian men who find conscription a pain. After their initial regular service of one year in their early 20s, men must return every other year to the Home Guard for retraining until they are 47 years old. This means that they have to take time off from work and family, sometimes for three days, other times for a month, to fulfill their mandatory service.

Most of the Norwegian men I know don’t like Home Guard service but they just take it as an (un)necessary responsibility they were committed to since they were first conceived in the womb.  But no matter how much they complain about it, I’m sure once they get out to the military base they don’t actually mind playing war games with the other boys.

Picture: Moose took this picture on his camera phone – it is the dinner he had tonight at the barracks while I was writing this post.  A good hearty meal with lots of fat and sugar designed to clog him up to prevent bathroom trips – it is cold enough sleeping in the tent (-11 degreesC tonight) than having to go outside and do some business.

I’ve heard many stories of people trying to avoid their service. Hiding under beds, seeking cover in forests and even car chases make the urban legend list. But if a conscript doesn’t show up on the first day, it is normal for the local police to hunt them down, put them in the squad car, drive them to the military base and dump them off. Wives being pregnant, sickness, religion, ethics or you need to feed your gold fish, all don’t work to get out of your service.

One guy from Tromsø recently could not get his kids looked after by someone so he rocked up to the military barracks with his two kids in tow.  The Home Guard wasn’t impressed but they made them stay a whole day, guns shooting around them, before they realised it was better for the guy to return home with his kids to Tromsø.  I’m sure they will get him back out to do his service soon.

When Moose’s conscription duty came up again this year we groaned. We even appealed. Moose looks after the kids at night while I work and we had no one to look after the kids while Moose would be away. To appeal Moose’s service we had to give the Home Guard officially signed documents showing my work time table and my employment contract. But that wasn’t good enough for them to let Moose off the hook. Their reply letter stated that since Moose and I couldn’t get a babysitter, I was required to take time off work to look after the kids. They clearly stated that I had no choice in the matter but they will financially reimburse both my work and Moose’s work for the labour lost. I was angry – I’m not even a citizen.  I don’t like the concept of conscription because it takes away freedom but being forced to support something I don’t believe in is annoying!

Picture: The boys sitting down sampling some of the new foods to hit the supermarkets.  (Love the gun just laying on the bag!)

The stories I’ve heard about what the men do on their little ‘camps’ can raise eyebrows.  One of my Norwegian friends in Australia told me tales of his group killing a deer with their bare hands and drinking the warm blood.  I’ve heard of the men being tear gassed while first wearing masks and then told to take them off so they can experience what the gas does to a person.  I’ve also heard that the food industry uses the conscripts as lab rats trialling their new food stuffs before they hit the market.  And I’ve heard that it is pretty casual at the barracks.  People are called by their first names, no saluting and no yelling needed.  I’m told it is the ‘guerilla’ way of doing things.  But the men are sworn to secrecy of what really goes on at the camps and sign agreements not to disclose military tactics and intel.  Though, if every Norwegian male is ‘in the know’, how secret can the military information really be?

Picture: Moose just after he was tear gassed – still smiling through his weeping eyes.

Fifteen years ago Moose served as a Royal Guard at the palace and other royal residences for his initial conscripted military service.  This is considered a prestigious honour in Norway.  A Royal Guard is assigned to protect the king, the palace and Akserhus fortress, as well as being the main army infantry to defend Oslo.  Because Moose is (very) tall, had sniper potential and was good at driving, (meaning he could drive a mean get-away car), he was selected.

Yes, he spent hours standing in front of the palace guarding it and if you were in Olso at that time you might have seen him participate in the Changing of the Guards ceremony in front of the palace.

Picture: The Changing of the Guards in Oslo.

The guard duty isn’t as strict as what you might get in London.  One time a little boy went up and poked Moose in the leg.  Out of nowhere Moose sprang into a hulk pose, growling.  The little boy was quite shocked and ran back to his mother.

A highlight of guard duty is the ‘boob patrol’.  The palace gardens are a popular place for sunbathing and sometimes the ladies get a little too adventurous.  The guards must go round and ask all the topless women to put their clothes back on.

A privilege of the Royal Guards is attending the annual Royal Guard ball at Akershus fortress.  Tickets are a hot item.  Each guard can invite a companion to the ball and so for a month there is a frenzy of girls at the barrack gates hoping to be chosen for the date.

Picture: Moose 15 years ago with his date for the Royal Guard Ball.

In any case, the initial military service can provide valuable qualifications that are useful out in the real world like truck licenses, computer engineering, signals and radio, etc.  If the conscripts are smart they can really benefit from the education, which can propel them into further studies.

The Home Guards serve as emergency crews in times of need, for disasters and even man big public events like the Olympics.  In general, it seems that the first conscripted service is like a debutant; the boys make their first debut in society as men.  However, with age comes wisdom and the more mature men get they want to move on from their boyhood adventures.  Conscripted service gets old after a while.  It will be interesting to see if military conscription lasts til Lil’ Red is of age.

In the meantime, we will likely have to make space for all the junk Moose will have to bring home – clothing, webbing, weapons and survival gear.  I think Norway is creating a nation of ‘inhouse’ sleepers. 

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