“Being able to save severely injured soldiers in life-threatening environments is our responsibility and essential for the credibility of the Swedish Armed Forces,” says Major Thomas Hernes, who heads the surgical troop that is now being trained at the Tränge regiment in Skövde and at the Defence Medicine Centre in Gothenburg. The unit is organized in a command group, a medical group and a support group totalling 27 persons in all, of which half are military personnel. The surgical team’s five doctors and seven nurses must be able to perform four surgical operations each day – six operations on occasional days – and follow them up with intensive post-operative care.
Patients are received by a trauma team that sets priorities and is also able to perform minor surgery. At the intensive care unit (ICU), there are four fully equipped observation places, as well as a portable ICU that is intended for use when a patient needs to be transported back to Sweden or to a hospital in another country. The operating theatre also includes X-ray equipment. Images can be transmitted by satellite for consultations with specialists at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg.
Recruitment not difficult
The very advanced equipment is among the best in the world. It is not only the equipment that is important, however. The skills of the medical personnel are at least as important.
“The troop includes some of Sweden’s best experts in emergency care. Unlike other units, recruiting personnel is not difficult. Applicants have almost had to queue for a position in the Nordic Battle Group’s surgical troop,” says Thomas Hernes.
Just like other units within the NBG, the surgical troop must also be prepared to depart on a mission within ten days. Just two hours after putting up the hospital facilities, the first patients can be treated.
There are four different parts of the hospital facility, an intensive care unit, an emergency unit, a unit for sterilisation and lab analyses and an operating theatre. The hospital facility is designed for areas with poor infrastructure for military medicine, such as Africa or Afghanistan, where the distance between hospitals is great.
Although personnel receive training, just as everyone else within NBG, they are not restricted in the same manner as other personnel.
“It is essential that medical personnel maintain their medical expertise. They therefore continue to work at their normal jobs during the on-call period. We can’t have them here just waiting to be called out on a mission,” says Thomes Hernes.
An important part of the training concerns protection against HIV infection from patients with severe bleeding. Equipment includes plasticized operating gowns, face masks with visors and double operating gloves. At present, Sweden has only one field hospital with these resources, although more are planned.
“Hospitals are always important. We can put them at the disposal of other countries within the framework of the EU or the UN even when Sweden is not involved in the mission,” concludes Thomas Hernes.
The environment is the best imaginable in the Swedish Armed Forces’ new inflatable medical tents. Each tent is 48 square meters and can be joined to other tents to create a miniature hospital in just a few hours. Surgeon David Bergman is shown here performing an operation in the white operating theatre.
Perhaps it was the Vikings who were the first to conduct psychological operations. Psyops officer David Bergman returns to the source – a rune stone more than a thousand years old.
Anders Johansson (right) is head of the Swedish psyops unit within the Nordic Battlegroup. He is shown here with Carl Wachtmeister in front of a 30-metre radio mast that will be used for own transmissions on NBG missions.
Text: Alexandra Leyton Espinoza