It is a Saturday morning when civil vehicles pull up to the almost empty military barracks not far away from Copenhagen. Mostly men above their forties in camouflage and with guns in their hands appear and gather together. The Hjemmeværnet – the Danish Home Guard is meeting for an exercise. The Home Guard is a military organization under the Ministry of Defence, consisting mainly of voluntary, unpaid members.
Flags of the Danish Resistance Movement and the smell of fresh coffee decorate the room where the volunteers seat down to have a briefing for the upcoming actions.
Outgrowing of the national experience of the World War II the Home Guard was founded and inspired mostly by members of the Danish Resistance Movement who refused to give up their arms after the end of German occupation in 1945.
The new focus of that organization soon became the threat of the Cold War. During that period the Home Guard was growing constantly, having 77.892 members at its peak in 1983 supporting the Army, Navy and Airforce as part of the Danish military defence.
While Maj, a 24 years old business student and one of the few female members at the exercise takes a break, she explains her fascination for the Home Guard: „…it is about protecting the nation and displaying professionality and authority with the uniform.“
But since the end of the Cold War the organization had experienced a steady decline in membership. And although the role of the Home Guard thereafter adjusted more into supporting civilian authorities such as the Police or the Customs the main reason for volunteers to remain in the Home Guard is the military defense of Denmark as a recent survey shows.
As the exercise slowly comes to an end on Sunday afternoon, 51 year old Lars sits outside the barracks and carefully strips down his assault rifle to clean it. „For me every exercise brings something new, new people i meet, new things i learn. And of course i do like shooting.“ he says with a broad grin.