Stronger defence together

Northern Wind 2019 is over, after almost two weeks of intensive exercise activity in a large exercise area in eastern Norrbotten.
– I had hopes that this would be a good exercise, but the outcome is even better. Above all, my thoughts are that, alongside four other nations, we have succeeded in exercising land forces in a realistic scenario, said the Exercise Director, Colonel Stefan Smedman.

Northern Wind 2019 is over, after almost two weeks of intensive exercise activity in a large exercise area in eastern Norrbotten. Here Swedish units are seen on their way to refuel their vehicles during the recovery phase. Photo: Jesper Sundström/Swedish Armed Forces
Soldiers from the Finnish battalion battlegroup, which was part of the Swedish brigade during Northern Wind. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
Exercise Director, Colonel Stefan Smedman. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
Norwegian soldiers from the Telemark Battalion. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
The Swedish brigade commander, Colonel Mats Ludvig. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
”We work side by side with our partner nations, Finland and Norway, and have very good cooperation with the British and Americans, and this sends out very important messages”, said the Supreme Commander, General Micael Bydén, when he visited the exercise. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
A soldier of the 32nd Intelligence Battalion from the Life Guards Regiment Hussars. Photo: Robin Krüger/Swedish Armed Forces
The Norwegian brigade front at the bridge in Svartbyn outside Överkalix. Photo: Mats Carlsson/Swedish Armed Forces
”Both sides become stronger when we share knowledge with each other. When we exercise together, we discover a few things the Swedes do that we should do as well. And I’m sure it’s the same for the Swedes,” said Jerry Nenola, a Finnish conscript with the Pori Brigade. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
Norwegian and American soldiers cooperating during Northern Wind 2019. Photo: Nghia Tran/US Marine Corps
British marines during Northern Wind 2019. Photo: Royal Marines
The Norwegian brigade commander, Brigadier General Lars Lervik. Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces
The Supreme Commander, General Micael Bydén, visited the exercise on Tuesday 26 March; here he is writing in the book of condolences. ”It is always just as difficult, it is always just as sad, it is always equally inexplicable when we find ourselves in the situation where we lose personnel.” Photo: Viktoria Szakacs/Swedish Armed Forces

An exercise with 10,000 personnel is on a scale that we have not seen in many, many years. It was an exercise with significant international participation, where we had a sophisticated opponent with equally advanced exercise objectives. In addition, the exercise area was in the north, which is of great strategic importance for Sweden.

Lessons and challenges

During the exercise, the Swedish brigade was reinforced with a Finnish battalion battlegroup, an important step in the development of Swedish-Finnish cooperation.
– It is easy to cooperate with Finnish soldiers and officers, I would say that we have a sort of historical link with each other that makes working together feel good. We certainly still have some challenges; our systems are not yet fully compatible, but the exercise is definitely a step in the right direction. We are getting stronger and we have learned what training we need to do in order to become even stronger, said the Swedish brigade commander, Colonel Mats Ludvig.

The opposing force brigade commander, Lars Lervik, is also very pleased with the exercise:
– It has been a very good exercise for us; we have been able to exercise in an area we have never been to before, and that in itself is a significant challenge. The fact that we've had British and American units as part of our brigade has also been very instructive, said Brigadier General Lervik.

Winning instinct

Exercise Director, Stefan Smedman, summarises the exercise:
– I had hopes that this would be a good exercise, but the outcome is even better. The exercise itself has been very successful. Above all, my thoughts are that, alongside four other nations, we have succeeded in exercising land forces in a scenario that mirrors armed combat. Exercising with others is the best solution for building stronger defence capabilities.

– Then there will always be winners and losers on the battlefield, and I think this is a good thing because it builds a winning spirit and a winning instinct. You really want to get better. That's why you can be upset when you take a bit of a beating, but it only lasts for that day. A winning instinct can only be a positive thing.

Keep going to the end

– I would also like to send a big thank you out to the local population up here. When we roll in with 10,000 personnel and thousands of vehicles, it definitely does not go unnoticed. Despite everything, the locals have been very accommodating and understanding throughout the exercise. Finally, right now, it's important that we keep going until the end, and all personnel and equipment get home safely. The exercise is not over until everyone is back in their home unit, concluded Colonel Smedman.

Tragic accident
In the early hours of Monday 25 March, the worst imaginable happened when a comrade and colleague lost her life in a tragic accident.
– There were some very sad days and our thoughts go out to the soldier's family and friends, and her comrades and colleagues in her unit, said the Exercise Director, Colonel Stefan Smedman.

Swedish Army Exercise 2019

The Swedish Army Exercise - Northern Wind - is taking place in northeast Sweden in March 2019.

The exercise has a total of 10 000 participants, of which approximately 7 000 come from our priority partner nations, Finland, Norway, the USA and the UK.

Contact: info-i19@mil.se