One-fifth of Swedish military conscripts ‘fear for their lives’

One-fifth of Swedish military conscripts 'fear for their lives'
One in five Swedish conscripts feared for their life while they were carrying out their compulsory military duty, a new study shows.

When the Conscription Council (Värnpliktsrådet) asked the same question back in 2004, only 13 percent of conscripts reported believing the life was in danger, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.

But a new survey carried out this year involving 1,000 conscripts reveals the figure has increased to 21 percent.

“We haven’t been able to establish what caused the increase,” Oscar Rosén, chair of the Conscription Council, told the newspaper.

One theory is that recent cuts in military spending have led to reduced training on how to handle dangerous equipment and weapons.

“Having a service weapon is risky. You need a lot of training on how to handle a weapon,” said Rosén.

The survey also showed that 71 percent of conscripts who experienced safety lapses believed they were caused by negligence, while 27 percent attributed safety problems to their commanding officers.

Since 1995, 15 Swedish conscripts have died in accidents, with most fatalities occurring in connection with transport vehicles, according to SvD.

The problem appears to stem from a communication breakdown between commanders and conscripts when it comes to safety.

“Conscripts disregard safety when commanders aren’t around. We’re talking about just a few people, but it’s dangerous for many others,” said Rosén.

And while he admits that conscripts need to do a better job of following instructions, Rosén adds that commanders also bear some responsibility for safety lapses.

“We’re talking about a communication problem. You have to success in communicating how important safety guidelines are,” he told SvD.

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