By Spc. Linsey Williams
Minnesota National Guard
CAMP VAERNES, Norway (2/21/13) - Soldiers from the Minnesota Army National Guard are here training with Norwegian forces as part of what has been called the longest-running military partnership between two nations.
During the 40th annual Norwegian Exchange, U.S. squads and platoons are learning winter survival skills from Norwegian personnel in preparation for a field training exercise in the Norwegian forests.
Under the state National Guard program that began in 1974, Norwegian Home Guard forces also travel to Minnesota to conduct winter training at the Camp Ripley training area near Little Falls.
For two days leading up to the four-day exercise here, the Norwegians taught their Minnesota colleagues to survive in the field with classroom instruction about cold weather injuries and dressing properly for the field. The group also prepared field equipment such as tents and heating stoves before heading to a location away from Camp Vaernes to put their freshly learned skills to the test. The day before, the exercise was devoted to ski training and setting up and taking down camp.
One Norwegian platoon leader, 1st Lt. Kim Tore Loen, is now participating in his fifth exchange. He said he enjoys helping the Minnesotans learn new skills such as skiing.
“It’s very funny for me to teach (the U.S. Soldiers) how to walk on the skis and see how (they) actually learn it at the start and what it becomes at the end. It’s a huge difference, and it’s good to see that kind of change.”
Norwegian squad leader Cpl. Carl Einar Rasmussen led a post-training after-action review with his squad of Americans, and said a lot of positive change was evident in their performance.
“You learned and got a lot better from this morning to now,” Rasmussen told them. “I’m a little bit proud, actually.”
Though the Minnesotans did great during the preparatory training, U.S. 1st Lt. Dustin Littlefield said the Americans were ready to get out into the field the following day to prove their skills.
“Tomorrow we’re looking forward to putting our skis on and putting on our ruck and carrying the heavy loads,” Littlefield said. “It should be a great time.”