Nordic Battlegroup – a model for the future

In 2000 the development programme now known as Personnel Recovery (Personell Recovery) was started in Sweden. Today the Armed Forces are able to match the best efforts of the United States when it comes to recovering personnel, who have been cut off from the rest of their unit, in the most effective way possible.

Training in CSAR, Combat Search and Rescue. Photo: Peter Liander/FBB

It was when the Air Force’s rapid reaction force Swarap was on preparatory exercise maneouvres that the need became apparent. NATO insisted that all airborne personnel should be trained in CSAR methods, Combat, Search and Rescue. For a rescue operation to be performed under the safest and most effective circumstances possible, it is necessary that all involved are familiar with rescue routines and are in possession of the required knowledge and skills.

The task of equipping the Armed Forces with such skills was given to the Survival School at K 3 in Karlsborg, where the centre for training and development within the realm of  CSAR has been placed ever since. The head of the Survival School is Major Tor Cavalli-Björkman.

– Today we are head to head with Americans when it comes to the latest developments in the field, and it is an extremely positive development that the entire Nordic Battlegroup has received training in PR (Personnel Recovery).

It was decided that the entire NBG should receive training in PR. This training programme has been on going since May last year. All personnel are to be trained up to class B, the next highest level. Those most at risk of being taken prisoner, or falling into a hostage situation, receive the highest level of training, class C.

Complete strategy

Lasse Brånn is the senior Personnel Recovery officer for Nordic Battlegroup. He sees a PR training as a self-evident necessity for NBG.

– As I see it, we have a moral obligation to prepare a properly thought out strategy for how we are to act in, for example, a hostage situation, says Lasse Brånn.
But there are not just ethical considerations behind Lasse’s enthusiasm for PR, there are operational benefits to be won in a broad application of the PR concept.

– If a clear strategy is in place then the different units can keep their focus on their assigned task. If anything should happen to a member or members of a unit, and there are specially chosen trained personnel in place to take of the situation, then that unit can continue to concentrate on their assignment, says Lasse Brånn.

For Nordic Battlegroup the rescue force is composed of the airbase rangers from F 17 and parts of the Airborne battalion at K 3..

Confidence gained

Lasse Brånn is satisfied with NBG’s PR capability. All soldiers have been through at least two days of training, and their skills are verified by additional exercises. Lasse believes that the unit’s ability to handle a PR situation has won the confidence of its soldiers.

– Nordic Battlegroup is the model of how overseas task forces should implement, and be trained in, PR capabilities.

Tor Cavalli-Björkman has a clear vision. He wants to see a properly equipped training ground, enabling effective teaching; somewhere every soldier can come and receive tailor-made mission adapted courses in Personnel Recovery.

– Somewhere we would be able to train units up to the size of a platoon under the relevant environmental and weather conditions, making teaching more effective. Another wish for the future is that a PR officer is fully involved, even before a decision to send out a unit in action is taken. Someone in position to assess the situation regarding an effective PR operation, who is able to provide a clear picture of the PR resources in place and those that need to be acquired, summarises Tor Cavalli-Björkman.