Nordic Battlegroup ready for action

The Swedish-led rapid reaction force Nordic Battlegroup, NBG, has now conducted the final part of the exercise. Air and ground units have been trained 24/7, seven days a week - from Uppsala in the North to Hagshult in the South. Today they completed the exercise, and at the end of the year they will begin their six-month stand by period for deployment.

"I hope that we have full support from superiors, politicians and others and that they feel confident in our abilities, because we do. We are ready", says colonel Torbjörn Larsson, Force commander Nordic Battlegroup. Photo: Maddelena Lago/Swedish Armed Forces
The exercise was attended by international guests and by the Swedish Majesty whom asked questions about how soldiers coped with the complex situation of civilian populations and how familiar the soldiers were with the scenario of the exercise. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
Helicopters transporting the king were guided in by military police, who also provided the escort. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
The company chief holds a briefing session with the platoon chiefs. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
Some of the battle took place in buildings that were partly mined. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
Medical care was an important part of the exercise. Injury markers with yellow vests spray artificial blood to mark where injuries took place. Then the soldiers practice taking the right measures as soon as possible. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
They acted resistance fighters eating breakfast. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
Even resistance fighters have to brush their teeth! Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
During the exercise the soldiers practised working with angry civilians, who were acted by students. "We use NATO's planning method. That is one of the advantages when we plan: other countries know what they can expect from us and we know what we can expect from them when we do the exercise together," said deputy exercise leader, Lieutenant Colonel Olof Johansson. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
Acted media interviewed soldiers and acted opponents. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
The CBRN unit (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) had to be called in to examine a laboratory, where soldiers suspected that chemical weapons were being manufactured. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces
The king returns home after the visit and is escorted by the military police. Photo: Björn Westerdahl/Swedish Armed Forces

During the exercise, units from all seven participating countries trained in carrying out joint military operations. The exercise was based on a scenario in which there was a conflict between ethnic and religious groups, and NBG was called upon to protect the local population and support local authorities.
"NBG must be able to operate as a peacemaker and prevent conflicts. They should be able to provide support for humanitarian operations, evacuation, reconstruction and assist with military advice," says the army chief, Major-General Anders Brännström.

Many pieces in the puzzle

The overall objective of the exercise was to make all the parties involved work together and achieve the requirements set by the EU. For the operation to succeed, all personnel must understand their own role and the task of their unit.
"There was a great deal to consider during the exercise, such as how to deal with refugees and civilians. Everyone in NBG represents Sweden, and you have to be tolerant and show consideration towards different religions and traditions in the country you are working in," says Rickard Dahlbom, a soldier taking part in this exercise.
"It was a good exercise and the unit made tremendous progress during the week. It was very pleasing to see how a well-functioning and coherent unit took shape," says Lieutenant Colonel Olof Johansson, deputy exercise leader.

Trust is important

Trusting in your own ability, in comrades by your side and in your leaders is essential when you are working in crisis areas and conflict zones. That is why we worked on strengthening cohesion in the unit during this exercise.
"I would feel very safe with my comrades if we found ourselves in a combat situation. We have specialists in all areas in our unit and I feel one hundred per cent trust in our leaders," says Rickard Dahlbom.

The army chief visiting Rickard and his comrades during the exercise also expressed his confidence in the unit.
"They have trained a lot and they are very good. If a situation should arise where they are needed, I am convinced that they would make a difference. Of course, there are always some details where you need to put the finishing touches, and that is why it is important from a psychological point of view to have a good debriefing session after training," says Anders Brännström.

Skills development through practice

The exercise, together with preparations for being on standby in 2015, has given the participants new experience and knowledge that may well prove useful in their future professions.
"They have been trained in health care, handling the media, mine clearance, CBRN and many other areas. Becoming more skilled, both individually and collectively, is a very positive side effect of the exercise," says Anders Brännström.

Another positive aspect is the understanding shown by the general public.
"People in the neighbourhood were very accepting, and we mostly received positive reactions. This is largely a result of their being informed by mail shots, advertisements and press releases before the exercise began," says the deputy exercise leader, Olof Johansson.