148th Fighter Wing Airmen Training in Norway
Duluth, Minn. — Nearly 100 airmen and soldiers are in Norway as part of an annual exchange with the Norwegian Home Guard. They are part of a unique program that allows them to become fully immersed in foreign military and social culture while their counterparts are here in the United States.
This is the 50th year of the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange or NOREX. Members of the 148th Air National Guard, along with members the 133rd Airlift Wing from the Twin Cities are in Norway for a two week training session. The 50 year history of NOREX is the longest relationship any state has had with a foreign country.
Captain Josh Kolkind went to Norway as part of Norex in 2013 and talked about his experience. “This type of training can help you succeed, not just survive, in an environment that might have mountains and snow and austere conditions,” said Kolkind. “It goes into the basics of hypothermia, staying warm, taking care of yourself in an outdoor environment in winter, which we all could, I mean just day-to-day life you could find yourself in a position where you need to use it. ”
One event stood out from his trip to Norway and he has good memories of it, “Probably sleeping in a snow cave and learning all the winter survival and just interacting with the Norwegian military.”
This is an exchange program, so there are also members of the Norwegian Home Gerard visiting Minnesota for training at the same time.
Audra Flanagan, the Chief of Public Affairs for the 148th Air National Guard said, “The Norwegian military has brought a group of personnel to the United States. They are currently at Camp Ripley near Little Falls and they are doing some winter training, U.S. style while here.”
Kolkind said that while the 148th is in Norway, it’s not all work. “They give you a weekend in the middle and you spend it with a Norwegian family. So you live in their house and they take you around on their normal activities, normal evens and you learn their lives.”
“In addition to the winter training there’s really a lot of cultural cross competencies that Minnesota and Norway share,” said Flanagan. “Whether it be food, language, friendships. There’s a lot of value in having friendships with other countries.”
Many of the guardsmen who return from the training say it was one of the best experiences in their whole military career. Captain Kolkind summed up his experience in Norway “one take-away was they’re not all that different from us Minnesotans.”