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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: 2017-04-24 10:43 AM Washington - Members of the Minnesota National Guard and the Air Force Reserve traveled to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (also known as the JCRC), to visit the Holocaust Museum, April 4, 2017, to honor the victims of the Holocaust. Also, traveling with this group were St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers along with students from various high schools around the state. For those in uniform that day, it was an opportunity to see, hear and experience the stories of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
Each Service member who attended was asked to bring back a summary of their experience in the form of a presentation, professional discussion or briefing to their respective unit in order to help other Guard members better understand and remember that horrible event, to honor the courage of the victims and survivors, and to remain vigilant as members of the U.S. military.
"The honor and privilege of accompanying members of the Minnesota National Guard to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. met so many goals," said Steve Hunegs, the executive director of the JCRC. "I wanted to reinforce the importance of the commitment of the U.S. military to democracy. After all, it was the Allies that defeated Nazi Germany and ultimately put an end to the Holocaust."
Posted: 2017-04-19 02:15 PM CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - It was a challenging and rewarding two weeks for members attending the Army National Guard Funeral Honors Instructor Course, April 1-14, at Camp Ripley.
Soldiers of National Guard units from all over the United States took part in the course designed to educate team leaders in a variety of funeral honor detail tasks, traditions and responsibilities.
"It's a stressful course, but for our job, we have to be prepared to do our job under stress; and we all really benefitted from that," said Class Honor Grad, Sgt. Ryan Valline of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry.
Posted: 2017-04-18 01:42 PM ROSEMOUNT, Minn. - The Soldiers of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division had a unique opportunity to speak with one of the U.S. Army's five Muslim chaplains April 7-10, 2017. U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Khallid Shabazz, I Corps deputy command chaplain, travelled from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Minnesota to provide professional development for the division chaplain section.
"Soldiers perform at a higher level when they are spiritually fit," said Minnesota National Guard Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Buddy Winn, the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division command chaplain. "And, it's our job as chaplains to make sure Soldiers have their spiritual needs met, regardless of faith. Having Chaplain Shabazz here as a Muslim Chaplain provides the diversity in religious background that we can't provide internally."
There are five major religions supported by the chaplaincy: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, but over 200 religions are recognized. Chaplains can only perform services for their particular religion, but they can provide support for all Soldiers, regardless of their faith.
Posted: 2017-04-14 04:25 PM ST. PAUL, Minn. - For the third consecutive year, Minnesota service members were honored with on-court recognition and other VIP treatments as part of the Minnesota Timberwolves Heroes of the Pack Program.
"We are very appreciative for what the military does for us, and we wanted to give something back to honor the military," said Roger McCabe, who along with wife, Nancy, is a driving force behind the recognitions through the FastBreak Foundation and Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation. "This is our way of doing it."
Having lived through the Vietnam War - and with Roger and Nancy both having parents who served - the two philanthropists decided a few years back to build upon existing recognition efforts already underway by the Timberwolves. And with that, recognitions that were typically happening at Target Center in November expanded to include Minnesota Service members from all branches at every home game - a total of 41 honorees per season.