They sweat together, they sleep together: in the name of gender equality, Norway has introduced compulsory military service for women, even bunking them in mixed dorms with their brothers-in-arms.
The military’s gender balance is not entirely equal yet, but almost a third of the Norwegian army conscripts born in 1997 were women this summer.
At the Setermoen army base just above the Arctic Circle, new recruits in an armored battalion are learning to handle assault rifles for use on combat missions. Here and there, long ponytails stick out behind the recruits’ caps.
“It gives me a bigger recruitment pool to choose from,” the battalion’s chief, Lieutenant Colonel Pal Berglund, says of the new gender equal draft.
“I’m still looking for the same competence I always have. And for me it’s obvious that this competence is also present within a large part of the female population of Norway.”
Norwegian women have been able to volunteer for military service for almost 40 years now, helping to gradually feminize the armed forces. The military welcomed its first female helicopter pilot, female jet fighter pilot and female submarine commander already in the early 1990s.