Top military brass in Oslo were apologizing Thursday after a female soldier in northern Norway said she was forced by a commanding officer to strip and bathe naked in a chilly lake along with 30 other male soldiers.
“This is totally unacceptable,” a spokesman for Chief of Defense Harald Sunde, L. Col Bent-Ivan Myhre, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said the incident was particularly troubling because the military is using a lot of resources to try to recruit more female soldiers and officers.
The ordeal that 23-year-old Alice Asplund faced during field exercises outside Bodø in September, initially reported by local newspaper Avisa Nordland, would be enough to make most women think twice about signing up for military service.
Asplund said on NRK’s nightly national newscast Thursday that she and her fellow soldiers had finished a day of field exercises when they were told to gather along the shore of a lake. They then were ordered to remove their clothes and wash themselves in the chilly waters of the lake.
Asplund said that most assumed they’d go into the water wearing their underwear. But no, all were ordered to strip, including her. There were three women among the men, but one had fallen ill and was excused from the bathing exercise. The other woman went along with the order, but Asplund objected.
“I asked if I could keep on my boxer shorts and sports bra, but the officer (who was not identified) said ‘no,’ everyone had to be naked,” Asplund told NRK. “Then I asked if I could move to another part of the lake, away from all the men.” That request was denied as well. The lieutenant in charge said everyone had to be treated equally.
She ended up feeling forced to obey orders. “I felt sick, and had big problems facing the men afterwards,” she told Avisa Nordland. “I couldn’t believe this was happening, in the Norwegian military in 2011,” she later told NRK. “It was a real cowboy culture.”
Her only consolation was that many of the men didn’t want to bathe naked in the lake either. And now, with the incident receiving nationwide press coverage, the lieutenant responsible faces disciplinary action.
“None of our soldiers shall be forced into naked bathing in the presence of others,” Myhre told NRK. “In this case, the situation went far beyond the military’s norms. We apologize for that.” Not least, he noted because of all the efforts to attract more women to military service.
The lieutenant responsible now risks anything from a verbal reprimand to up to 20 days under military arrest.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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