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NEWS | April 19, 2022

Norway, Minnesota Guard celebrate 49th troop exchange

By Army Capt. Jodine Eells, Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – The 49th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange came to a close in April as more than 100 Soldiers and Airmen from the Minnesota National Guard departed Norway to return to Minnesota.

NOREX,  the longest-running military partnership between two nations, started in 1974. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was canceled in 2020 and 2021.

“Being able to execute this mission and strengthen bonds between our two countries was a very special experience,” said Minnesota National Guard Army Maj. Tracy Mankowski, the officer in charge of the American contingent that traveled to Norway for NOREX 22.

While in Norway, the Minnesota National Guard conducted winter operations training with the Norwegian Home Guard, known as Heimevernet. Minnesota Soldiers and Airmen spent five days in the cold winter countryside of Norway. During their field training exercise, Minnesota Guard members learned how to cross-country ski, survive in the field during winter and travel by skijoring. They also participated in a polar plunge in a mountainside pond.

Once they returned from the field training exercise, the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen hosted an American meal for the Norwegians, serving walleye and steaks donated by the Saint Paul-based civic organization, Serving Our Troops.

The Norwegians hosted a Viking day, taking the Soldiers and Airmen to learn about Viking culture at the Stiklestad Museum and competing in Viking games and eating traditional Norwegian food.

This exchange promoted goodwill and sharpened military readiness between the nations while providing opportunities for cultural understanding among participants.

“Conducting challenging training in a harsh winter climate creates a unique experience that bonds participants,” said Mankowski. “As this exercise wraps up, Soldiers and Airmen from both countries will remember the trust and mutual respect that comes from overcoming obstacles together. From this experience, we learned to encourage each other to help each of us find our strength, even when skiing for the first time down a mountain.”

Before the Minnesota Soldiers and Airmen departed, a farewell banquet to thank the Norwegian Home Guard for their generosity, commitment, and continued friendship, completed this year’s exchange.

“We can share in the same inside jokes and smile at the same fond memories,” said Mankowski. “We started the exercise off as partners and allies but left it as something more — true friends.”