US Army Special Forces train in winter combat in northern Sweden

The training was part of the exercise Vintersol (or "Winter Sun") 2021.

By Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer - April 8, 2021
The military training exercise Winter Sun 2021 takes place in Norrbotten, northern Sweden. (Mats Carlsson / Forsvarsmakten via The Independent Barents Observer)

Several groups of U.S. Army Special Forces recently participated in exercise Vintersol 2021 (Winter Sun 2021), a training warfare in freezing cold together with a Swedish brigade. Prior to the exercise, the American soldiers also conducted winter training at Norrbotten regiment in Arvidsjaur, northern Sweden.

“Many of us have a lot of experience from desert environment,” one of the U.S. soldiers said in a press statement posted by the Swedish Defense Forces.

“Very cold and very hot climate has one thing in common, both are extreme and potentially life-threatening.”

The soldier, however, explained that there are big differences. “Everything takes much longer in cold and snow. Little things like getting out of the sleeping bag and get started with the morning routines are much harder.”

[US Army’s first Arctic strategy looks to “regain dominance” in extreme cold conditions]

The Special Forces soldiers, from Operational Detachment Alpha, are highly skilled at stealth combat missions. During the exercise with the Swedes, the groups had the task of infiltrating deep behind the enemy’s lines in the snow-covered wilderness environment. The purpose was to enable combating the enemy with artillery, according to the Swedish Armed Forces.

“We have developed enormously after coming here. Now, I would say that our ability to tackle winter is on par with the Swedish recruits after completing basic education,” one of the American operators said, adding: “But we want to develop even more.”

A U.S. Special Forces group takes part in joint training with Swedish soldiers in Arvidsjaur, northern Sweden. (David Carr / The Swedish Armed Forces via The Independent Barents Observer)

Last October, Sweden outlined its defense plans for the next five-year period with a serious boost in defense spendings.

“It is a signal to the Swedish people and our neighborhood that we are taking the security situation extremely seriously,” Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said.

Includied in the plans are the re-establishment of five regiments, including the Norrland Dragoon Regiment (k4) in Arvidsjaur aimed to work in closer cooperation with military forces in the northern parts of Norway and Finland.

The defense plan said Armed Forces is tasked with studying additional measures to strengthen its presence in northernmost Sweden in times of growing tensions with Russia.

Sweden is not member of NATO but signed a Partnership for Peace agreement in 1994. In recent years, U.S. military has increasingly trained together in exercises with the Nordic countries.

On April 7, Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, spoke by phone with his Finnish counterpart, Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen. The two shared their understanding of the deteriorating security situation resulting from the increased Russian activities along the Ukraine border, a statement from the Pentagon said.

Like Sweden, Finland is not a NATO member, but a near partner to the alliance.