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To the top of the mountain and back, NOREX 44 members embrace the Norwegian winter
HALTDALEN, Norway - After two days at a base camp near Haltdalen, Norway, Minnesota National Guardsmen participating in the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange were ready for the most challenging aspect of their four-day field training exercise - a ski march up the mountain.
It was Day three of the FTX, meaning members of the 44th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange had slowly adjusted to surviving and thriving while living in a winter environment and also honed their skills on cross country skills well enough to begin a climb that would take nearly three hours.
"Our goal was to get you to know how to use the winter, see how the Norwegians use the winter, and how we survive the winter so we can conduct combat," said Vidar Aune, one of several members of Home Guard 12 guiding the Minnesota National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during their training here. "By getting the experience living outside in the snow, you manage to survive it and handle it quite well."
Now having made it up the mountain, a new survival technique would be put to practice as Soldiers and Airmen dropped their skis and grabbed shovels to dig out the coming night's shelter.
"The whole exchange unit is here making 25 caves, for five persons each," said Aune.
After Norwegian experts tested the snow to ensure it was both safe and practical for building a snow cave much earlier in the week, the U.S. contingent first took a tour of a demonstration cave, then headed to their hole to begin the dig.
"We start by digging two holes in the snow simultaneously, then we kind of turn inward and meet together and start digging the bed," said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Smith, a platoon leader here and member of the 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion. "It's about five-to-six degrees warmer in here than outside, and once you get a couple bodies in here it will go up a couple more degrees."
With some of the caves still being completed by nightfall, work had nearly wrapped up before Americans and Norwegians climbed the top-most peak to watch the sun set. Following a long day of physical activity, with the wind blowing and temperature dropping, all members of NOREX 44 looked forward to spreading out in the relative luxury of the snow cave shelter.
The next day, an even more treacherous journey back down the mountain would begin, signaling the end of the four-day FTX.
"It's been great, I'm really not an outdoors person like this so I'm stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit and it feels good," said Sgt. Sean Mayberry, a member of the Joint Force Headquarters Medical Detachment. "They do a lot of hard work, some of the things we watch them do we're just like, 'Wow, man!' You got to have a lot of endurance, I know that."
"The first few days we were learning how to ski, falling a lot," said Spc. Grace Wegleitner, with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade. "We were making fires and building shelters, learning their techniques for how to stay warm and survive in the Norwegian winters.
"The Norwegian people are very knowledgeable. It's awesome being around them. They want to teach us the language, and they want us to taste their food, and especially techniques they've learned in the military, they want to teach to us."
"That is why we are up here, to share some of our basic knowledge of how to survive without having too hard of a time and have the ability to focus on the tactical things," said Maj. Gard Ommedal, the officer-in-charge for the Norwegian Home Guard instructors and commander of the Home Guard 12's Rapid Reaction Force. "We are not focusing on the tactical things now but only the basics - how to actually be comfortable in winter."
Up next for the U.S. contingent - following warm showers and a change of clothes - the American Meal night will be celebrated, providing an opportunity for Minnesotans to host an evening meal with steaks donated by Serving Our Troops. The contingent will then head their separate ways for buddy and staff weekends, spending two days living with Norwegian families and becoming more immersed into the culture.
With only a few short days of weapons training and a couple of sightseeing tours, Soldiers and Airmen of the Minnesota National Guard's NOREX 44 will complete their training event and head home with a new appreciation for their Norwegian allies.
February 21, 2017 by Staff Sgt. Patrick Loch
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.