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Minnesota and Norwegian troops come together

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CAMP RIPLEY — On Saturday the chief of defense for Norway, General Harald Sunde, arrived via Blackhawk helicopter amid a small snow flurry and with much fanfare from the Norwegian soldiers that are training at Camp Ripley for the next two weeks.

“Our two nations share great values, together we stand up against terrorism — this is a very important mission and we have an obligation to get our soldiers together not only on the battlefield but back at home,” Sunde said.

The 40th Norwegian Exchange (NOREX) featured an evening feast prepared by the Norwegian contingent’s own chef as well as customary food and drinks for soldiers and community leaders to enjoy and learn about the culinary culture of Norway. Various preparations of salmon, reindeer, lamb and moose were paired with authentic cheeses, salads and fish soup.

During the meal a cultural presentation was shown, shedding light on the military history of Norway, and a look into the beauty of the Norwegian countryside.

“This event brings young men and women soldiers together to create friendship and long-lasting relations,” Sunde said.

“Today I had the opportunity to talk to some of our soldiers about the experience of the exchange,” he continued. “Face to face, soldiers can discuss lessons learned, what they had done and talk about their piece of equipment — that is really what is bringing this friendship forward.”

After a night of bonding and fellowship, the Norwegians worshipped with Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers at a bilingual church service. Praying and singing in both languages, the theme continued to be one of brotherhood between the nations.

The chief of defense for Norway, Sunde is the highest ranking officer of the Norwegian military, second only to the King of Norway. In addition to acting as Norway’s NATO military committee representative, he is the top advisor to the Norwegian government regarding military issues.

Sunde returned to Norway on Monday to recognize and celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Norwegian/United States Troop Reciprocal Exchange program — the oldest such program in Norway and the Department of Defense.