News: There’s no business like snow business – U.S. Marines hone their skills in the Norwegian Arctic, March 12, 2024

News: There’s no business like snow business – U.S. Marines hone their skills in the Norwegian Arctic, March 12, 2024


U.S. Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are heading to the northernmost tip of Norway for Exercise Nordic Response, part of the largest NATO exercise in decades, Steadfast Defender 24. But before we get there, we have to survive the harsh Norwegian winter.

The Marine looks down at his skis, looking like they’re about to bite.

But his peers won’t stop teasing him – Do, do, do –He then raised his chin and looked at Shizuku in front of him with determination. He stands a pole in the snow and pushes it.

The Marine slides down a slope, which is actually a kind of indentation at the top of a snowy hill in northern Norway, and just as he is about to reach the bottom, his skis fly out from under him and he lands on his back. There was a crash.

Friends raised their gloved hands and cheered. The Marines groan.

“Every time I get depressed by my thoughts,” he says, using words that cannot be repeated on NATO’s website.

Like many in the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (1/2 for short), he had never skied before. The 10-day cold weather training course, to be held in the hills near Setelmoen in February 2024, is an ice challenge designed to help Marines survive in the extreme conditions of the Arctic Circle. In the coming weeks, 1/2 will land on the frozen shores of Norway’s remote Finnmark region, arriving north of here for the Nordic Response exercise.

Norway has long been a cold-climate testing ground for NATO allies. The “cold weather” training series began in 2006 and established a long tradition of cold weather training in Norway. Since then, the exercise has been held every two years in northern Norway.

Following the expansion of NATO with Finland and Sweden, Norway has now expanded the exercise and renamed it “Nordic Response.” This will involve her more than 20,000 soldiers, more than 50 ships, and more than 110 aircraft from more than 14 countries.

The fallen Marine got up from his skis and duck-walked back up the hill. They may be grimacing now, but by the time the exercise begins, they’ll be able to glide across the frozen ground with rifles strapped to their chests and 30kg rucksacks on their backs.

“I think one of the things we’re seeing with our Marines and Sailors in this training is how quickly they can learn the skills to meet the proficiency level that they need to perform,” said 1/2 Cmdr. said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Ted Driscoll. operation. But like anything, it takes practice. ”

Unless, of course, you were born here. Many Norwegian soldiers enter the military with a wealth of cold-weather knowledge, using skis, snowshoes, and snowmobiles to traverse harsh terrain in style. They consider the uncompromising rigor of their vast snow-covered backyards a valuable testing ground for NATO forces.

“It’s very difficult to be in Finnmark and operate in harsh temperatures, cold and heavy snow,” said Lieutenant Colonel Petter Bakkejord, commander of the Norwegian Armored Battalion of the Norwegian Army. “This allows us to operate anywhere in the world. It could be a desert, it could be a tropical region, but the Arctic allows us to work in most environments.”

In other words, if you can succeed here, you can succeed anywhere.

No need to tell the Marines. For the past decade, U.S. military amphibious forces have focused on mastering Arctic warfare, sending large numbers of troops to learn the harsh lessons of Setelmoen’s winter. They had excellent teachers in their Norwegian peers and in the British Royal Marines, and had ties to the Norwegian Arctic even before NATO itself (in 1941, the Royal Marines began training on the Axis-occupied Lothoven Islands, not far from Setelmoen). )).

At our hilltop camp, we could see the lessons we had learned over the years put into practice. For example, a Marine shoveling snow into a yellow plastic bag. It may seem like a simple chore, but it’s actually the most important job at camp. Snow melts into clean water that cooks food and hydrates Marines. When people aren’t digging battle positions, brushing snow off weapons, or adjusting skis, they’re also shoveling snow into bags or turning it into water.

The trick is to stay busy. There’s always something to do, which generates body heat and keeps your toes and fingers from going numb in the -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) cold. One sergeant proudly displays the shoulder-high wall of snow the Marines have built around their yurt. It not only kept the wind out of the tent, he explains, but also kept the Marines moving, warm and mentally focused.

Everything takes time in the snow. What should have been a multi-hour hike turns into a half-day hike as the Marines stop to lace up their snowshoes and take in the immaculate arctic landscape. Even with snowshoes, navigating the terrain while carrying equipment can be a pain. Additionally, the equipment they carry includes heavy tarps, diesel fuel for tent stoves, skis and snowshoes, gloves the size of oven mitts, and puffy jackets that Marines derisively refer to as “snivel gear.” We have a lot.

And it’s also cold.

The cold enters through the opening in the tent, runs down the collar, and seeps through the knit hat. If you sit still, you will lose feeling in your fingers and toes. However, try not to sweat. Wet clothes can cause frostbite and hypothermia. Before a training attack, a corporal ordered the Marines to remove their snot gear. You don’t want your underwear to get soaked as they rush through the deep snow, sweating hard.

This order seemed counterintuitive, and as the Marines removed their warm, fluffy jackets and took them off, I could see them tense slightly as the cold air blew the heat away from their bodies. But they ignored the tremors, pulled on their white camouflage cloaks, and picked up their rifles. Soon they were climbing the hill on snowshoes, sending clouds of frozen powder flying.

The North Pole is a tough teacher and they still have a long way to go before they reach Finnmark, but the Marines are quick learners. If you’re not used to snow and your skis are unstable, practice may not make you perfect, but you’ll definitely get better at it. And thanks to NATO allies who are experts in arctic survival, Marines always have a friend to help them survive the cold.



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