Stuck In The North

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Stuck In The North

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I was serving in the Norwegian Army when COVID-19 came onto the scene. My base, Skjold Leir, was one of the first places in Europe to react to the virus. Immediately after it was perceived as a threat, my base shut down, and put the soldiers into quarantine, leaving us stuck inside our rooms in the barracks. My company, which was a part of the Engineer Battalion, had spent the last two weeks preparing for Cold Response 2020, a major international military exercise, meant to train and expose soldiers from all over the world to the severe elements of Troms, in the north of Norway. This event was unfortunately canceled, due to the newly arisen threat of the CoronaVirus.
The members of my squad and I got stuck in our rooms quarantining for five days. We tried to keep ourselves occupied to pass the time. We began to hear news of mass lockdowns taking all over Europe, with the United States closely following suit. Although there were some who were hopeful that this might be over by Easter, it became quite apparent that things would not get better any time soon.
After our quarantine, there was a malfunction in one of the gates at the back of the base. The gate would not close, so more soldiers were needed on both day- and night-shifts to ensure that our base was not compromised. The entire base needed to be patrolled constantly as well.
This assignment lasted two weeks. I was chosen to serve on the night-shift. I found it extremely difficult to adjust my internal clock to stay awake all night and sleep during day-light hours. At times, I found myself sleepwalking while standing in front of the main entrance, not among one of my most proud moments. Thankfully, we were assigned partners, and we were instrumental in helping each other in staying awake and focused.
Although the first few nights of the night-shift had been rough for us, we quickly adjusted to it. It would not be until after we were done with our two-week overnight-shift that the gate finally got fixed. Fortunately for us, however, we managed to find a way to seal it shut during the night, thus lessening the workload.
After our two week shift was over, we quickly began with our normal routines. Other than the local gym and movie theater being closed, as well as each barrack in our base needing to take turns going to the mess hall to have breakfast and dinner, business was still running as usual.
An unfortunate consequence of the pandemic was that soldiers could not leave base, which meant that all of our vacations were cancelled. For some of us, this would be a trying period, as the pressure of being trapped in base for so long without going home increased the amount of depression in our squad. My base took some preventative measures to keep its soldiers content and motivated. They organized sport events, as well as other fun things to keep us preoccupied, some of which I helped to set up and run. This, unfortunately, would not be enough for a few of the soldiers on base. Some of them ended up quitting the army, sheerly out of the stress caused by not seeing their loved ones for months on end. Even I at some point had a brief panic attack, as the pressure of being in this same place for so long affected my morale. I am proud to say that I managed to pull myself back together, and refused to quit. I was determined to see my obligatory service in the Norwegian Military through to the end.
For all our extraneous duties, we were awarded with a two week leave. To finally come home after many months of service was a great joy. I was so happy to see my parents, my brothers, my friends, as well as my dogs. I also brought with me a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

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This item was submitted on November 27, 2020 by Alexander Stolt-Nielsen using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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