CAMP RIPLEY-The Minnesota National Guard will host more than 100 members of the Norwegian Home Guard Feb. 8-22 as part of a reciprocal troop exchange at Camp Ripley.

The exchange, in its 46th consecutive year, reinforces the positive working relationships between allied services and highlights the strong lineage many Minnesotans share with the Scandinavian culture.

The origin of the exchange began with a handshake between two World War II veterans-Norwegian Maj. Gen. Herluf Nygaard and Chief of National Guard Maj. Gen. Francis S. Greenlief, agreeing a troop exchange would strengthen the bond between their two allied countries. This program, which began in 1974, was the initiation of the longest allied exchange of its kind to date in the U.S. Department of Defense.

"Each year approximately 100 soldiers and airmen from the Minnesota National Guard and a like number of Norwegian Home Guard soldiers as well as youth trade places to experience each other's training, military lifestyle and most importantly, culture," Shane Haugen, director of Camp Ripley's Joint Visitors Bureau, stated in a news release.

The Partners for Peace exchange program has had more than 9,000 soldiers, airmen and home guard personnel participate. Through the middle of February the exchange will introduce the Norwegian soldiers to cooperative training experiences with American military and inter-agency partners focusing on domestic operations with law enforcement and homeland security. The exchange will introduce the Norwegian contingent to American cultural events throughout Minnesota.

The benefits to this program have been reflected in duty locations around the world as American and Norwegian service members recognize the techniques and procedures used by each other forces and are able to relate the commonality and friendships made during the reciprocal troop exchange, National Guard officials stated.