Træning mod opgaven og for livet

Anne-Sophie Eriksen Wendell

Student thesis: Master executive thesis


When the Danish Armed Forces in 2006 entered the rough theatre of the Helmand province in Afghanistan, it joined one of the toughest military campaigns Danish soldiers have ever partaken in. The soldiers’ assignment in Helmand was influenced by a series of external factors such as climate, task frequency, patrol speed and duration, equipment load, fluid and nutrition intake (or the lack thereof), terrain, and finally the enemy. It was essential that the soldiers possessed a good all-round physical performance capability to cope with these factors. However, an unusually high number of these soldiers were re-deployed or temporarily taken out of battle soon after deployment due to physical injuries. Many soldiers were incapable of doing a single chin-up at the end of their six-month deployment, despite having patrolled the Helmand Green Zone carrying up to 55 kg on their backs most days of their deployment. The Danish Armed Forces’ Centre for Physical Training therefore commenced an investigation in 2008 to clarify the physical work demands of Danish soldiers in Afghanistan. A high level of fitness was considered essential, as it builds resilience to both the physical and mental demands that soldiers face in the battlefield. The Centre compared the physical performance capabilities of soldiers with trained military athletes, due to the proven positive influence of the 58 Se bilag 8. Tilliden er væk: Officerer vælger Forsvaret fra. 54 latters physical performance capabilities on mobility, as well as psychological, social, technical and tactical skills. The findings of the study into the Danish Battle Group’s combat operations between 2008 and 2012, resulted in the development of a new Danish Concept of Military Physical Training. This concept aims to improve the soldiers’ physical state of readiness for a given assignment, as well as making them stronger and more fit soldiers from an overall perspective. The concept is almost fully implemented by the Danish Armed Forces today, although some further guidance and supervision is required to fully meet the Centre for Physical Training’s core task of building functional, physical and mentally robust soldiers. Observations nevertheless indicate that soldiers have their own personal perceptions of what is required training-wise to become a physically fit soldier. A number of qualitative interviews were therefore carried out by the Centre to gain a more in-depth understanding of the role and impact of such perceptions. This thesis performs a narrative-analysis of the stories told during the interviews and demonstrates that soldiers live their lives through storytelling. Storytelling provides tangible examples of perceptions of military physical training, which can be used to clarify the image embedded within the concept of Military Physical Training and the Centre’s identity, respectively. The results reported in this thesis are based on three types of empiricism: 1. An analysis of the development of the Danish Concept of Military Physical Training in the context of the Centre for Physical Training’s history and the changes incurred since 2008. Based on a laboratory-based model, the thesis discusses different potential obituaries for the Centre. It also examines conditions and perceptions within the Centre, which is used in subsequent analysis. 2. A narrative analysis of interview participants’ perceptions of and verdict on the Military Physical Training provided by the Centre. 3. Personal observations of interview dynamics and content, as well as reflections on broader societal impacts on the conceptual framing of military physical training. Finally, the thesis outlines the archetypes and key behavioural patterns portrayed by the interview participants in an effort to identify how gaps between perceived image and actual identity might be minimised. The results highlight the key role of communication for bridging such gaps. The conclusion of the thesis also incorporates reflections on personal leadership lessons gained from the study.

EducationsMaster of Public Governance, (Executive Master Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages126