CAMP VAERNES, Norway - Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airman took part in a flag ceremony immediately after arriving in Norway Feb. 9 - then watched as their Norwegian counterparts boarded the same plane and headed back to Camp Ripley, Minn.
The early morning event was the official opening ceremony for the Norwegian Exchange, a program that allows Minnesota Guard members to learn from their Norwegian counterparts in an environment not unlike home.
During the Minnesota Guard members' stay in Norway, they will be receiving winter training such as skiing techniques, avalanche training, food/emergency food rationing, bivouac routines, digging snow caves and how to build and light a fire.
Soldiers and Airmen will also be given the opportunity to participate in a "buddy weekend". This program will allow the members to spend a weekend with a Norwegian family for an up close look at how Norwegian's live.
There is no doubt that the 39th Annual Norwegian Exchange will create memories and friendships that none of the participants - be it American or Norwegians - will soon forget.
The approximately 100 Soldiers and Airmen are scheduled to return to Minnesota later this month.
The exchange, which began in 1974, is the longest-running military exchange partnership between any two nations. The yearly exchange promotes good will and sharpens military readiness between the nations as well as provides opportunities for cultural understanding among its participants.
While in Norway, the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will conduct winter operations training with the Norwegian Home Guard. They will participate in a field training exercise where they will ski into the mountains and sleep in tents and snow shelters. They will also conduct weapons familiarization with their Norwegian trainers.
The Norwegian Home Guard soldiers are staying at Camp Ripley, the Minnesota National Guard's premier training center. They will be conducting winter training operations with the Minnesota National Guard and will be participating in multiple training exercises. In addition, the Norwegians will stay with a Minnesota family and get the opportunity to experience some local culture as well.