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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota National Guard deploy to Norway for 35th Annual Norwegian Exchange

Part I
103 members of the Minnesota National Guard deployed to Norway for the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange The US Contingent arrives at Camp Verneas, Norway to begin a two-week long experience that they will long remember This exchange program, now in its 35th year, continues to be a great opportunity for Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to experience winter training, participate in Norwegian culture and traditions, and establish lifelong relationships

After arriving in Norway, Soldiers and Airmen departed the aircraft and participated in a flag ceremony with the Norwegian Home Guard This ceremony celebrates the relationship between the two countries and this longstanding tradition of the exchange The American flag is raised alongside the Norwegian flag in front of both the US contingent and the Norwegian Home Guard contingent

The US contingent will soon be issued cold weather equipment and prepare for the intense winter training ahead of them 1st Lt Micheal Schwieger, company commander, states that the key events ahead of the Minnesota contingent will be training in winter survival, skiing, snow caves and surviving on food caught and prepared by Soldiers

"It is about merging the different military cultures and focusing on their military customs It is definitely an opportunity to come together as a unit," said Schwieger

The Guardsmen also will be immersed in various cultural exchanges and learning activities while in Norway

Part II

Minnesota National Guardsmen are transformed into Norwegian Home Guard Soldiers as part of the 35th Annual Norwegian Troop Exchange They are issued Norwegian equipment, including a full Norwegian uniform, cold weather clothing, and winter training gear They then begin to train with Norwegian Home Guard instructors the same way Home Guard Soldiers would be trained The US Contingent soon moves from Camp Verneas in Trondheim, Norway to the Norwegian Home Guard training center at Haltdalen, further into the snowy mountains Here the troops learn the importance and history of winter training, how to pack equipment, skiing with wooden skis and full ruck sacks, and setting up shelters and camp

Following the issuing of and learning about squad equipment, the US contingent visits the nearby town of Roros where they tour Olav's Mine and experience a traditional sleigh ride through the picturesque town After some sightseeing and shopping, the next day is right back to hard training as the troops prepare to depart into the mountains to the Field Training Exercise (FTX) area Once at the FTX site, the guardsmen set up camp by putting up ten man tents, starting kerosene heaters, and taking care of their equipment

Over the next few days the US Contingent learns valuable winter training, such as setting up an emergency bivouac, lighting a fire, catching food in snares, theory of avalanches, rescue training and ski-joring

Ski-joring, a favorite training activity for many of the troops, involves twenty Soldiers being pulled behind a tracked vehicle rapidly through the snow Although the training is challenging

"I love being with new people and playing off of each others' strengths and weaknesses," said Pvt Alissa Basinski

As the next cold, snowy day arrives, troops take down their tents, pack their gear once again, and prepare their skis Then, they begin the final challenge of the winter training It involves a thirty minute ski-joring ride up the mountain and a 5 km ski march through some very challenging terrain, traveling upward approximately 200 meters in elevation At the top of the mountain, the troops set up bivouac once again and begin digging snow caves in the side of a massive snow drift This is where they will spend their last night during the FTX

As Basinski explained, "It is an experience of a lifetime"

By Tech Sgt Jason W Rolfe, Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
Feb 20, 2008
The Norwegian Exchange Program

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