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Norwegian military teaches survival skills to Minnesota guardsmen

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CAMP VAERNES, Norway — The 40th Annual Norwegian Exchange is in full swing as Norwegian lieutenants and noncommissioned officers take individual platoons and squads under their wings teaching them survival skills for a planned field training exercise in the forests of Norway.

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For the two days leading up to the four-day exercise, the Norwegians taught Minnesota Guardsmen what they would need to know before going out to the field. It began with classroom instruction about cold weather injuries and how to dress properly for the field with their new Norwegian uniform.

After classroom instruction, the rest of the day was spent putting together quick-cover tents for individual squads to take with them to the field. Troops were also taught how to use essential equipment to the Norwegian military, including small burners called primus stoves and large tents with heating stoves.

On the day following these lessons, the troops were brought to a location away from Camp Vaernes, to put their freshly learned skills to the test. One platoon leader, Norwegian 1st Lt. Kim Tore Loen, is now participating in his fifth Norwegian Exchange.

“My experience is that it’s very fun. It’s very fun to get you over and go on skis. Skiing — that’s the best part,” said Loen. “It’s very funny for me to teach you how to walk on the skis and see how you actually learn it at the start and what it becomes at the end. It’s a huge difference, and it’s good to see that kind of change.”

The day before the field training exercise, which was devoted to skiing from various locations and setting up and taking down camp to hone their skills, a lot of positive change was evident. One squad held an after-action review with their Norwegian squad leader, Cpl. Carl Einar Rasmussen.

“You learned and got a lot better from this morning to now. I’m a little bit proud, actually,” said Rasmussen.

Though the troops did great on practice day, the real test would be out in the field. 1st Lt. Dustin Littlefield, the Minnesotan counterpart to 1st Lt. Loen, showed his enthusiasm for getting out to the field with his troops when he said, “Tomorrow we’re looking forward to putting our skis on and putting on our ruck and carrying the heavy loads. It should be a great time.”

SPC. LINSEY WILLIAMS is a member of the Minnesota National Guard.

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