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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard trains in bitter Norwegian cold

Camp Varnes, Norway- Although Camp Varnes is known for being the largest military training facility in Nord-Troendelag County, Soldiers and Airmen from the Minnesota National Guard had no cerebral protection from the bitter cold of a Norwegian winter  The Guardsmen were participating in the 38th Annual Norwegian Exchange (NorEx) Feb 4 through Feb 24, 2011

So merciless was the piercing cold that Soldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota Guard couldn't even find relief in the heated bivouac tents  Cold winds brought chills and windburn to service members' exposed faces

2nd Lt Matthew Alken, an administration officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 134th Brigade Support Battalion, said after a few hours of cold weather training, the most difficult obstacle to overcome was frigid cold

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"The big climate change will definitely take it's toll on all of us," said Alken

Alken was part of the US Contingent for NorEx at Camp Varnes, where Guardsmen conducted a series of cold weather training exercises to simulate survival skills they would need if ever found in a frozen tundra

Sgt Simen Isachsen, an instructor in the Home Guard District 12 Rapid Reaction Force, said he has 7 months in the RRF under his belt He along with his Norwegian counterparts led the training exercises, guiding the US Contingent step by step through the possible cold weather situations they could have encountered as they ski marched up the mountains near Haltdalen, Norway

Indeed, Isachsen's training motto is "˜the more you do, the better you are,' which he told individuals that he felt were struggling throughout the day

"I know you're all Americans, but to be successful out in the Norwegian winter, you have to realize that you can do it," said Isachsen

Alken also noted the importance of staying mentally fit while you're out in the field

"I don't think it was so hard physically as it was mentally--it's all about knowing your body and your limitations out in the cold weather," said Alken "It was a real test in honesty to yourself--you had to know when to tell people you were uncomfortable, unlike the training that's given in Basic and AIT"

After a full two weeks of training, Isachsen said that he was pleased with the Soldiers and Airman in his assigned platoon

Alken was not only pleased with his own progress during the training, but also said he would recommend this training to any Soldier or Airman in the Minnesota Guard

"I would recommend this once in a lifetime experience to anyone that wants a more well rounded military experience-- I just think it's something everyone could really benefit from," said Alken, "and maybe we can all be on the same page and thank God I'm glad I went, but I will never go back again"

Story and photos by Spc Trisha Betz
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
15 Feb 2011


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