Special Forces in Focus: The Norwegian Telemark Battalion

Telemark Bataljon soldier, Operation Karez in Afghanistan, 2008.

The Telemark Bataljon (Telemark Battalion, TMBN) is a mechanised infantry unit of the Norwegian Army. It was established in 1993, and is a part of Brigade Nord and stationed at Rena, Hedmark. The battalion consists of five companies/squadrons.

In 1993 it was a motorised infantry unit, tasked as an Immediate Reaction Force with the Norwegian Army, stationed at Heistadmoen in southern Norway, manned mainly by conscripts.

It served in Bosnia, and by 2002, all the enlisted soldiers had two and three-year contracts of enlistment and the unit had no more conscripts.

The battalion was moved to a new camp at Rena and converted to mechanised infantry. Presented with its new colours in 2002, the Telemark Battalion was operational on 1 July 2003.

The unit participated in Operation Karez in Afghanistan, in May 2008.

One soldier died in Afghanistan in 2004, and one died there in 2010.

Battalion Organization:

  • Tank Squadron 1: The battalion’s tank unit, equipped with Leopard 2 main battle tanks.
  • Cavalry Squadron 2: The battalion’s armoured reconnaissance and scout unit, equipped with CV9030 infantry fighting vehicles, ATVs and different sensors like UAVs etc.
  • Mechanised Infantry Company 3: Mechanised infantry equipped with CV9030 infantry fighting vehicles.
  • Mechanised Infantry Company 4: Mechanised infantry equipped with CV9030 infantry fighting vehicles.
  • Staff and Support Squadron 5: A combat support unit made up by mortar, medic, signals and repair platoons.
Norwegian Leopard 2A4.

In addition, the Telemark Battalion frequently trains with the rest of the Norwegian Army High Reaction Force. This is a composite unit made up of the Telemark Battalion, as well as enlisted personnel from support capabilities, ranging from artillery to military police.

The Telemark Battalion was one of the infantry battalions assigned to the NATO Response Force during the NRF-4 rotation from January to July 2005; the others were Regiment Johan Willem Friso and Regiment Van Heutsz of the Dutch Army and Fallschirmjägerbataillon 373 of the German Army.

Telemark Battalion is the primary source of international contributions from the Norwegian Army. The battalion has almost constantly been involved in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan since 2003.

Norwegian Iveco LMV of the Telemark Battalion in Afghanistan.

Controversy in Afghanistan

Since the summer of 2009, there have been several instances of soldiers from the unit spray painting a Punisher skull (in part inspired by the character from comic books and movie – the Punisher) on houses and property belonging to Afghans whom soldiers suspected of having ties to the insurgency. The purported purpose was to “send a message”, to leaders of the insurgency, that the Norwegian soldiers would not allow them to continue their offensive.

In September 2010, Verdens Gang reported that some soldiers were still using a Punisher skull that had been prohibited by the leadership of Norway’s military.

The alleged crimes of threatening and spray painting the property of suspected insurgents did not lead to any criminal charges.

In 2010, Dagbladet published a video of company commander Rune Wenneberg leading a battle cry (“To Valhalla”) by soldiers of the unit — his intro to the cry was “We are hunters. But you are the predator. Taliban is the prey. To Valhalla!”

Insignia of the Telemark Battalion.

In 2011, Dag Herbjørnsrud wrote in an editorial that “Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik wasn’t sending soldiers into war — he was merely supplying manpower to a “peacekeeping mission”. Is it odd that the media was surprised by Norwegian soldiers using Viking helmets and battle cries of Vikings?”

Deployments

  • 1997–1999: SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 1999–2002: KFOR in Kosovo
  • 2003: in Iraq
  • 2003–2004: The unit was temporarily handed over to ISAF, and thereafter deployed to Kabul in Afghanistan
  • 2005–2006: ISAF at Kabul in Afghanistan
  • 2006: ISAF at Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan
  • 2006–2007: ISAF at Meymaneh, Afghanistan
  • 2008: ISAF at Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan
  • 2008– : ISAF at Meymaneh, Afghanistan.

Notable soldiers of the Telemark Battalion:

  • Joshua French (prisoner of Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a death sentence)
  • Emil Johansen (author of Brødre i blodet)
  • Tjostolv Moland (died while on Democratic Republic of the Congo’s death row)
  • Rune Wenneberg 
  • Aslak Fløgstad Nore (author of Gud er norsk (“God is Norwegian”) and journalist)
  • Espen Haugeland, recipient of Krigskorset med sverd in 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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