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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard provides local training with a global impact

The Norwegian Exchange between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard took place this week at Camp Ripley

On February 12, at 2 am, members of the Norwegian Home Guard, Sweden, Denmark, and Croatian armies flew to the 133rd Airlift Wing in St Paul before arriving at the Minnesota National Guard training facility, Camp Ripley  While in Minnesota members of the Norwegian Exchange (NOREX) program will participate in vigorous military training to be conducted by Minnesota National Guard combat veterans, many who have served multiple overseas tours

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The mission of NOREX is, according to Lt. Col. Jay Morsching, "a partnership for peace which provides an opportunity for both countries to get together and train in a military environment NorEx is even more important today than when the program was first initiated, which was more social back then, now that we have joint force operations being conducted around the world"

While at Camp Ripley soldiers have had an opportunity to study American techniques, tactics and procedures (TTP) which have been tested on the battlefield While many of the soldiers agreed that there are similarities to the training which they receive in Norway, one soldier expressed, "it is the subtleties that are different and those subtleties are very important"  These subtleties are in part due to the traditional differences of our military missions Morsching explained the US Army has traditionally been more of a "battlefield" army, while the focus of the Norwegian Army is a "broader homeland defense role" with an emphasis on civil support and domestic terrorism While the participating countries are learning from us, our military also learns from them

They help our troops in learning and understanding the rules of engagement, which is vital now that our military missions include dealing with insurgents, and civil support

Every soldier will take away something different from their experiences here For the relatively new soldiers, they are learning invaluable skills that may one day save their lives as they deploy to Afghanistan, Kosovo or Lebanon

For others such as 1st Lt Mark Birkedal of Denmark, a training officer in his home country, he will walk away with some new ideas for training his troops back home 

Coincidentally shortly after returning home he is scheduled to offer training in "cordon and search" which has been the main area of focus for the last week

Birkedal said that he was "very impressed with the knowledge of the trainers here, acquired by their first hand experience" He is "looking forward to applying some of the techniques he has learned to his training regiment"
There are also soldiers here who have gained the kind of experience one only acquires from living in a war torn country, where every bullet, every target  shot  is in defense of your family, your countrymen and your way of life 

Master Sgt Zelko Bilandzig of the Croatian Army is such a man He fought during the Serbian-Croatian war as well as in Afghanistan Having had the opportunity to work and fight alongside soldiers of various countries, he said he found it "best to work with American Soldiers because they are physically fit, motivated and disciplined"  For him being here gives him an opportunity to aid his soldiers in getting the most they can out of every day of training

We are living in a time when our militaries are stretched thin; the war on terror is truly global All of the countries represented here have multiple deployments taking place right now; all of them are in Kosovo, Afghanistan, with a couple in Lebanon and Africa not to mention multiple UN involvements   Minnesota and the National Guard can feel proud in the role that they are playing in unifying, and training those who may not have access to some of the same training we have here  Our Soldiers and facilities are providing knowledge and experience that may one day save the life of a soldier in harm's way

By Spc Alicia Phillips
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
22 Feb, 2010

The Norwegian Exchange Program

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