In Focus: 46th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange Comes To Camp Ripley
For the last 46 years, members of the Norwegian Home Guard have been visiting Minnesota as a part of a reciprocal troop exchange at Camp Ripley. The exchange was founded as a way to reinforce the positive working relationships between allied services and to highlight the strong lineage many Minnesotans share with the Scandinavian culture.
Last week, the training center gym at Camp Ripley was filled with allied troops from Norway and the United States to kick off the 46th annual reciprocal troop exchange.
“For the last 46 years, what we’ve been doing is sending a contingent of Minnesota Army National Guardsmen and Airmen to Norway and likewise, we’ll get Norwegian Home Guard and the Norwegian Military to come here for some training with us here at Camp Ripley,” explained Christopher Ward, Camp Ripley Deputy Garrison Commander.
The exchange began with a handshake between two veterans of the Second World War.
“We have a little bit more than a hundred troops here and the Americans have a little bit more than a hundred troops on our side. They will get experiences and skills from the Norwegians on the Norwegian side and we will get your experiences and skills on this side,” said Jon Ivarkjellin, Officer in Command of Norwegian Exchange.
Throughout their time in Minnesota, the Norwegian troops will be training in procedures and techniques from American forces.
“We start with the basics like shooting and trying all the weapons systems that the company has here, the National Guard. Then now we have operations training,” said Armsteim Gramde, Norwegian R.O.F. Chief Sergeant.
Around 35 youth from Norway joined the troops to get a taste of what serving in the military is like.
“Every year Norway sends about 30 to 35 of their youths. They’re still in high school. They are the ones that are interested in becoming a member of the actual military, and so they come over here as a little taste of what they can expect in the military,” said Lt. Dan Barber, Youth Platoon Officer in Command.
In addition to training exercises, the troops will be participating in various cultural activities.
“Ice fishing, curling, meals together, American meals, Norwegian meals,” added Ivarkjellin.
Over the last 46 years, the troop exchange has been an important tradition and has been rewarding for those involved.
“I have loved every single day. What I love the most is actually the people here,” said Gramde.
“It’s extremely rewarding. An incredible group of individuals. Fantastic people. We all have the same values. Shared values and our culture is very similar,” added Ward. “We’re here to strengthen those bonds and establish relationships.”