Minnesota, Norway resume troop exchange after 2-year break

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh,
  • Minnesota National Guard

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. – Nearly 100 service members from the Norwegian military’s Home Guard, known as the Heimevernet, arrived at the Minnesota National Guard’s 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul March 25.

The Norwegian Home Guard members are participating in the U.S.-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX), an annual exchange that began with a handshake 49 years ago.

“We are happy to welcome back our Norwegian friends,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kristin Tritz, Camp Ripley Joint Visitor’s bureau chief. “Through the pandemic, we had to get creative in keeping the partnership active.”

Over the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOREX continued via quarterly virtual meetings and site visits with key leaders from each nation. This kept the communication and partnership alive.

This year’s exchange will include various training events such as weapons qualifications, land navigation, situational training exercises, a biathlon race, and asymmetric threat training with Minnesota National Guard members and Minnesota law enforcement agencies.

“The early training will prepare them for a culminating event with local law enforcement,” said Army Maj. Timothy McPherson, the Training Support Unit’s assistant operations officer. “They will learn to support civilian authorities with different types of threats.”

Additionally, NOREX participants will learn about Camp Ripley’s history and American culture in Minnesota through cultural events such as a trip to Duluth, shopping at the Mall of America, and a formal American meal.

The program allows each nation to partner with allies and benefits from winter survival training as both countries learn best practices and new tactics each year this exchange occurs.

Camp Ripley’s state-of-the-art facilities on 53,000 acres have helped the partnership grow to be the longest-running U.S. military exchange.

The 49th annual exchange officially commenced with an opening ceremony March 26 at Camp Ripley. American and Norwegian flags were posted in front of a formation of Home Guard, Camp Ripley’s Training Support Unit, and 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry Regiment Soldiers to signify the cooperation and unity of this longstanding partnership.

“We are here to support the Norwegians as they train over the next several days,” said Army 2nd Lt. Matthew Michels, who leads one of the teams supporting part of the Norwegian service members. “But we’re also here to learn from them and with them. As allies, our nations build each other up.”