All the bits of the combat puzzle

An early summer dawn in Skåne. It is calm and there is clear blue sky, but it is far from quiet. Several hundred soldiers are making their way north in heavy armoured vehicles. The Intelligence Service has discovered that the enemy plans to enter and take control of Åhus harbour, in order to secure troop reinforcements via the sea. The units taking part in exercise 'Sydstorm' have been given the objective of dashing these plans and quickly leave southern Skåne behind them. Like a string of pearls the columns thunder along through the open landscape – straight towards the enemy and an inevitable confrontation.

Christoffer Simonsson ensures that that the Commanding Officer of the Core Battalion command and control from wherever he pleases, and is protected.
Christoffer Simonsson ensures that that the Commanding Officer of the Core Battalion command and control from wherever he pleases, and is protected.
Samuel Pardon/The Swedish Armed Forces Photo: Samuel Pardon/Försvarsmakten

One of the most key people in the scenario being played out is Lieutenant Colonel Jonas Nilsson, Commanding Officer of the Core Battalion which has the task of preventing the enemy's movement forward by all means necessary. He rides in one of the command vehicles in the column and is, of course, precious cargo. The soldiers protecting him are well aware of this.

"He and the entire Battalion command are important, and it is the most honourable mission to be responsible for their accessibility and safety", says Christoffer Simonsson who is in command of Jonas Nilsson's vehicle.

Even though the mission that Christoffer and his crew have is quite special, they are very humble. They emphasise that the entire Battalion, both in terms of personnel and equipment, is world-class. The key to success is a broad competitive spirit, everyone wants to be the best. An attitude which will be tested to the extreme in the ensuing battle.

Seize Rinkaby

The confrontation is sudden. Just outside the village of Rinkaby, north of Åhus, the enemy is spotted. A sequence of events then occurs in a very short period of time. Orders are given and executed. To the outside observer it seems as though complete chaos reigns. Several of the tens of tonnes of heavy vehicles rev their engines and create thick clouds of dust. The sound of the engines is drowned out when the rooftop gunners open fire. Somewhere in the terrain the battle is being led by Lieutenant Colonel Nilsson, and he is doing it well. The Core Battalion's attack is powerful and they manage to push the enemy back north, away from Åhus, away from the coveted harbour. But the operation has also been costly. Several soldiers are wounded and need to be quickly transported away from the battle zone to receive medical attention.

Helicopter to the rescue

The Nordic Battlegroup's helicopter resources are located west of Åhus. Two Finnish and two Swedish helicopters are on standby. When the alarm is sounded that the wounded are arriving, some of the Swedish crew have just sat down in the shade to catch their breath after their most recent flight.

"Casevac! Casevac!" yells a voice over the radio.

In an instant, the pilots, gunners and technicians gather around the large map in the main tent's briefing room. The atmosphere shifts from mirthful to focused.

"We'll fly in low to avoid being too vulnerable," says one of the pilots and indicates the flight path with his fingers.

He knows that the mission is dangerous. 'Casevac' means evacuating the wounded from the heat of the battle and transferring them to qualified medical care as soon as possible. The goal is to get to the combat zone as quickly as possible. In and out. Quickly.

After the briefing, it only takes a few minutes before the helicopters lift off. They then fly in formation to the pick-up location. While one descends to pick up the wounded, the other one protects it from the sky. The gunners sweep the landscape with their machine guns. On the ground, the combat medical technicians load the wounded young men onto the floor. As soon as the lock on the hasp is clicked into place, the helicopter lifts and turns sharply to the right. It climbs quickly and falls into formation with the escort once again. They fly at high speed towards the field hospital.

World-class combat requires world-class medical care.

The Swedish medical care chain is known as being good. Extremely good. It is often said by other armed forces around the world that Swedish soldiers survive wounds which few others would. The skills and facilities at the field hospital where the wounded are now dropped off are exceptional. It is possible to perform everything here, from laboratory analyses to advanced surgical procedures. For the individual soldier, an important piece of the puzzle is to feel safe knowing that if something goes wrong, the care provided is of a very high standard. This is taken for granted in the Nordic Battlegroup.

"Absolutely, if you feel confident in the medical care chain you can focus entirely on your mission," says Major Rickard Wissman, the Chief Public Affairs Officer for NBG.

In combination with the spirit of competition that Christoffer Simonsson spoke about, it is probable that this confidence has laid the foundation for the success at Rinkeby. In the terrain that has been conquered, the engineering troops have started to lay mines for the protection of their own units, and to delay the enemy in the event of a counter-attack. In the dusk, it is calm again in and outside Åhus. The harbour is secured.

And the wounded soldiers? Yes, they survived. Thanks to their friends, the helicopter crews and the hospital personnel.