"We are well prepared for Norway"

Exercise Vintersol is over for this time. Eight units from all over the country have been practising attack and delay battle tactics for almost a week.
"We are very satisfied with Vintersol. Most of the units that will be joining Cold Response have been on this exercise in Boden, which means we are well prepared for Norway," says lieutenant colonel Tommy Sjödén, chief of staff at the third brigade staff.

Swedish-Finnish cooperation is being continuously developed. Brigade Commander Lars Karlsson at the front control point working alongside the Lieutenant Colonel Petteri Soini from Finland, who was visiting Vintersol for a couple of days. Soini will be the Deputy Brigade Commander during Cold Response 2016. Photo: Mats Carlsson/Swedish Armed Forces
Lieutenant Colonel Tommy Sjödén, chief of staff at third brigade, in conversation with the Finnish Lieutenant Colonel Petteri Soini. Photo: Mats Carlsson/Swedish Armed Forces
Winter capability has definitely has been put to the test in Vintersol; here is a soldier with a grenade launcher from Skaraborg regiment, advancing on snow shoes. Photo: Mats Carlsson/Swedish Armed Forces
The manoeuvre unit's combat vehicle 90 has proved its capability, moving forward in up to one metre deep snow. Photo: Viktoria Välilä/Swedish Armed Forces
Tracked engineer vehicle 120, a field work vehicle designed for supporting fighting units; used primarily for excavation, removal and mine clearance, as well as building or removing various types of obstacles. Photo: Mats Carlsson/Swedish Armed Forces
"Vintersol was a good workout and it'll be really exciting to take part in Cold Response" said Jacob Winqvist, mechanic in the 191st motorised battalion service company. Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces
Soldiers from the I 19 pioneer platoon did all they could to delay the enemy's progress by laying mines. Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces

During this year's Vintersol exercise, the main focus has been on attack and delay battle tactics in a winter environment. The objective was to practice brigade capability, brigade leadership capability, winter capability and coordination between units.

One fighting battalion with its subordinate units was led by the third brigade staff during Vintersol, just as it will be during Cold Response in Norway. The multi-national brigade there will be led by the chief of the Norrbotten Brigade, Colonel Lars Karlsson, and will be supported by a multinational brigade staff.The third brigade staff from I 19 will be the main force.

"It was important for us to execute Vintersol in this way with all the units in place. From the staff perspective, we included our important service unit control point company with a subordinate coordination platoon in the exercise. Without them we would not be able to have field grouped staff and a dynamic front control point," says Tommy Sjödén.

Communications and indirect fire

"An exercise as large and complex as Vintersol is challenging in terms of skills and technology when the units are in place and trying to get everything working in the winter environment. We have made great progress in areas such as artillery and communications, which is important, but there are still things to improve," says Tommy Sjödén.
Jacob Winqvist is one of the 1000 or so participants in Vintersol. He is a mechanic in the 191st motorised battalion's service company, and he thinks it has been a good exercise.
"We've had just about the right amount of repairs to do. It was a good workout, and it'll be really exciting to take part in Cold Response."

The units on site

For the fighting units, the exercise has been a good dress rehearsal. Being physically alongside functional units such as engineers, brigade artillery and helicopters provides good training, especially for coordination and deployment in attack and delay.

"We are really pleased that we've had most of the units on site, especially since many exercises in the past have used mock-ups for a lot of units. When we go to Norway we will have other major parts of the Swedish forces in the brigade, including some of the Träng Regiment's logistics battalion," says Tommy Sjödén.

Airspace coordination

Another important aspect to practice is the coordination of airspace in the operation area.
"Vintersol has given us an opportunity to train this aspect thoroughly. Coordinating airspace has been a good challenge for us with the artillery shooting indirect fire, helicopters flying in staff and carrying out medical transportation and the motorised battalion's new intelligence gathering resource, UAV," says Tommy Sjödén.

Live endgame with Archer and grenade launchers

Exercise Vintersol ended on Wednesday with a brigade support exercise to practice coordination between live indirect fire with grenade launchers and Archer. Fire control groups from artillery regiment I 19's commando battalion and armoured battalion were grouped in the exercise terrain to lead the indirect fire. All that remains now is to put together all the experience gained and start service and preparations for Cold Response, which will begin at the end of February.

Developing brigade capability

"There are no short cuts to success. You just have to practice again and again and gather experience from each exercise to get better. Our full focus is now on servicing all the materiel and vehicles, and giving the personnel time to recover their battle merit before we go to Norway. We would like to thank all the units that have participated and helped to make the exercise really useful in developing Swedish brigade capability. It is exercises like this that make brigade capability more than empty words. It becomes a hard fact for potential enemies to think over carefully," concludes Colonel Lars Karlsson, Commander of the Norrbotten Brigade.