Denmark's Camp Bastion in Helmand in Afghanistan.
Foto: Miriam Dalsgaard

Denmark's Camp Bastion in Helmand in Afghanistan.

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Minister: Handicapped soldiers on missions

The Danish defence minister is suggesting that handicapped soldiers could be sent out on missions.

News in English

Denmark’s Defence Minister Søren Gade is suggesting that Danish soldiers who have lost an arm or a leg, could be sent out on tailored missions abroad as a way of solving some of the personnel problems in the Danish armed forces.

“I think we are going to have to differentiate the demands we place on our soldiers,” Gade tells Information as the Danish Defence Commission prepares to publish its long-awaited report on Danish defence.

Gade adds that American soldiers who have been wounded, can remain in the defence forces.

“You may not be able to carry out the entire spectrum of tasks if you have lost an arm or leg – but I heard from the American embassy in Denmark that the United States has a Company Commander abroad who has lost a leg,” Gade says.

Under current rules, the physical demands placed on Danish soldiers are the same, irrespective of the tasks they are due to perform.

“In Afghanistan, the tasks at the Armadillo and Price bases are completely different to those at Camp Bastion, where it would be possible to be based without having to carry out a full spectrum of duties in, for example, battle operations. If you always measure everyone in the defence forces as if they had to be fighter pilots, there would be a large number of personnel that could not be sent out on operations. That is in no-one’s interests,” Gade says.

Analyst: good idea
The Head of the Danish Institute for Military Studies Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen says there can be some sense in the minister’s suggestion.

“It sounds reasonable. The reason that the Americans do it is because they have the same problems that we do – too many wars and too few soldiers,” Vedby Rasmussen says, but issues a warning.

“You just have to be careful where you reduce requirements and on whom, because a characteristic of the missions that Danish soldiers are currently involved in – also in Kosovo – is that one minute it’s peaceful, and the next it isn’t. That is something that the soldiers have to be able to handle both physically and psychologically,” he says.

1,300 on missions
There are currently some 1,300 Danish soldiers on missions abroad, and a lack of personnel has put pressure on the political target of being able to deploy 2,000 men abroad.

“If you want to be nasty, you could say that it’s just to press the last drops out of the lemon. But many of those who have a physical handicap also have a sincere wish to remain part of the fellowship and to be able to be deployed,” the minister says.

Political support
The minister’s suggestion also seems to enjoy broad political support.

“This can be a sensible approach. We have exciting work ahead of us to see how we can best make use of our resources,” says Social Democratic Defence Spokesman John Dyrby Paulsen, although he warns that it can be more difficult than it sounds to differentiate requirements.

Socialist People’s Party Defence Committee Member Pernille Frahm also supports the idea of allowing less physically strong personnel to serve abroad.

“This sounds like a very good idea. It’s about time that the recruitment strategy is thought through and that we recruit more broadly,” she says adding that only five percent of the Danish defence forces are women, placing Denmark under countries such as Bulgaria, Greece and Lithuania.

“It’s good if Søren Gade is beginning to think more broadly.. It would also improve the mentality in the defence forces. If a person has psychological impairment, then that person should, of course, not be sent out again. But if you have lost a leg and are good, for example, at organisation, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to be sent out. It would be doing the defence forces a service not to be too narrow minded,” Frahm tells Information.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

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