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Minnesota National Guard
39th Annual Norwegian Exchange: More than just Training

The 39th Annual United States/Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX) came to a close when more than 100 Minnesota National Guardsmen landed back in Minnesota on the afternoon of February 23, 2012  The two week Exchange presented both challenging and memorable moments for all participants

The training provided by the Norwegian Home Guard gave Minnesota Soldiers and Airmen both classroom and in-the-field instruction on how to survive in a winter weather environment  Guardsmen got the opportunity to practice what they learned on a three-day field exercise  For most people the most challenging part was the three-mile, uphill ski march carrying a 60-pound equipment pack  Once Guardsmen reached their destination, they were required to make snow shelters to sleep in for the evening

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Preventing frostbite was a reoccurring theme of the training  Keeping feet clean and dry and having a spare pair of gloves and socks in reserve was an emphasis item  Another point made by Norwegian Home Guard experts were that cold conditions reduce your fighting ability and if you manage the cold conditions better than your enemy, you will have a great advantage

"Norwegian instructors were very knowledgeable and put a well executed plan in place to train us," said Maj Michelle Major, Officer in Charge of the 39th NOREX  "The morale was high among the Soldiers and Airmen and they were highly motivated to take on any challenge that the instructors presented them with"

For Maj Troy Fink, Assistant Officer in Charge of NOREX, said picking out one highlight from this year's exchange was not possible  "Overall, everything that made up the experience was the highlight," said Fink  A sentiment shared by several of the members participating in the Exchange  "The shared training and relationship building will prove to be extremely valuable to both countries"

Besides training, Minnesota Guardsmen and women were also given the opportunity to experience Norwegian culture and for one member a chance to visit family he has never seen before  Staff Sgt Ryan Lodgaard, Platoon Sergeant for NOREX, was made aware that he had relatives in Norway about a year ago when they were able to connect via Facebook  During "buddy weekend", a program where Minnesota Soldiers and Airmen get to spend a weekend with a Norwegian host family, Lodgaard was able to spend the weekend with his actual family  The weekend visit allowed him to meet many cousins and establish a bond  Lodgaard and his family in Minnesota plan on making arrangements to go to Norway this summer to spend time with their newly found relatives

"Buddy weekend" and just being able to spend time with the Norwegians showed that we were very similar and that we have more in common than one would think  A lot of strong friendships were built in two weeks and that will only help strengthen the relationship between the United States and Norway

Story and photos by Master Sgt Ralph Kapustka
148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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