On standby – and ready for take off

More than 2,400 personnel from seven different countries are on standby ready to be deployed as part of Nordic Battlegroup, the European Union's rapid reaction force. During this six month standby, everyone must be ready to be deployed. However, the standby does not mean that anyone is sitting back, relaxing and waiting for something to happen.

CASEVAC-moment under samövning mellan 71.Core Bn och NBG:s Helikopterenhet.
CASEVAC-moment under samövning mellan 71.Core Bn och NBG:s Helikopterenhet.
A Black Hawk Helicopter landing during a CASEVAC exercise. Photo: Robert Petersen/Swedish Armed Forces
Skarpskjutningsövning under komapniövning
Training with live ammunition during the Battalion's company exercises. Photo: Alexander Karlsson/Försvarsmakten

At Revingefältet in Skåne, the 71st Battalion, which is the main part of the NBG Core Battalion, the Nordic Battlegroup (NBG) are training.

“We need constant training to maintain our capabilities, so we are ready if a decision to deploy is made. At the same time, we will come out of this standby period a stronger unit, taking with us all of the skills we have been exercising before and during this period”, says Commanding Officer Jonas Nilsson for the Core Battalion.

NBG Ground and Air Units

The sound of military exercise not too far away echoes over the field, as the mortar platoon together with personnel from two Black Hawk helicopters are preparing something with a number of mortars. And it's not just a Nordic Battlegroup's ground unit that are in training. One of the two NGB helicopter units is also in place, ready to train for new missions.

“What's new with this exercise is that we're practising carrying a load hanging under the helicopter. We need to be able to move a mortar platoon including its personnel, weapons and ammunition. Troops are transported in the helicopter, whilst the cargo hangs underneath. This means that as soon as we land, the materials can be assembled and the unit can begin firing. We're also exercising our transportation of troops and necessities, in addition to CASEVAC (Casualty evacuation). These aren't our main tasks, but they are something we are good at,” explains Major Torgny Törestrand, commanding officer of the SWE helicopter unit.

Essential skills for both units

“If we don't train certain things during peace time, we will never be able to implement them during conflict. The collaboration we began in 2013 has developed positively and helicopter training exercises have become a natural part of our operations,” says the commanding officer of Core Battalion, Jonas Nilsson.

Helicopter Unit commander Torgny Törestrand agrees.

“Sure, you start to recognise a lot of faces – it's not the first time we've trained with Core Battalion – but it is the first time we've flown with a load hanging beneath a Black Hawk helicopter. It doesn't matter if it's in the NGB or the national Armed Forces, this is an important part of our work. With these capabilities, we can increase mobility for other units, just as we do for the 71st”.

This combined training has also enabled them to exercise casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) as part of the military operations carried out by the battalion. A plume of blue smoke can be seen and it's growing, accompanied by the sound of an approaching helicopter. On the ground, a group of soldiers are ready to carry their "injured" comrade to the helicopter, from which they can be transported to a medic.
A number of different operations and training programmes are being held throughout the week and Jonas Nilsson is satisfied with the companies' performance.

“Our soldiers are extremely motivated. We always try to provide the best environment for realistic action so our personnel can develop and use their skills in acute situations. We're also going to need proficient personnel for the challenges that will arise after the standby period. The Nordic Battlegroup mission doesn't just put us on standby, it also prepares us for the future,” concludes Jonas Nilsson, Commander of the 71st Core Battalion.