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Minnesota National Guard
2010 Norwegian Exchange Program comes to a close

The 37th Annual Norwegian Exchange program (NOREX) is soon coming to a close On February 12, at 2 am more than 80 members of the Norwegian Home Guard, 1 Swedish soldier, 1 Danish soldier, and 10 Croatian soldiers flew into Minneapolis before arriving at the Minnesota National Guard training facility, Camp Ripley On Wednesday, February 23 in the early morning hours, they will be boarding a plane to return home

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While in Minnesota members of the Norwegian Exchange program participated in vigorous, often exhausting military training which was conducted by seasoned veterans of the Minnesota National Guard  Everyone seemed grateful to have the opportunity to take part in NOREX, but they knew this was not going to be a field trip A typical day of training consisted of waking up by 6 am, to draw weapons by 6:30, then train, train, train, the last class generally concluded by 10 pm, after that they hit the racks and woke up the next morning to do it all over again

While many of the Norwegian soldiers remarked on how impressed they were by the American trainers knowledge, drive and determination, they had to admit that there are differences in our armies leadership styles The American army leadership demands that orders be carried out without question Soldiers in leadership positions have been known to yell, even swear when an order is not carried out to their standard Sometimes they yell when they are just giving the orders This is not how it works in the Danish Army 1st Lt Mark Birkedal, a training officer in the Danish army said "If I talked to my soldiers like that, there would be no one in the army"

When asked what training they find most beneficial; a majority liked the shooting house The shooting house is a building which is used to train units how to effectively clear a building of possible enemy forces Teams of four enter the building where targets are displayed, soldiers determine whether the target is a friendly or foe, and then they engage the enemy using blank ammunition 1st Lt Fjellstad of the Norwegian Home Guard said "Firing in that kind of closed quarters environment, where you are very close to everyone and shots are firing next to you, that was very good for me That was excellent training" Many NOREX participants remarked on how impressed they were by the size, quality, and the diversity of the ranges on Camp Ripley

When asked which activity or training had been most enjoyable the resounding response was "live firing on the vehicle mounted 50 cal"  2nd Lt Kristian Hansen talked of how he had "seen this kind of thing in the movies" and that "being up there firing it was like, yeah let's rock and roll" Fjellstad's response brought nods of approval from all around when stating "shooting that big gun is like getting a massage, it is good for the soul"

Watching these men reminisce about their day at the 50 cal range I realized borders, cultural, and age differences, all melt away when we come together under a common experience

22 Feb, 2010
Photos and story by Spc Alicia Phillips
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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