News: Minnesotan, Norwegian soldiers celebrate 40 years of partnership
AKERSHUS, Norway - After two action-packed weeks, the 40th anniversary of the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX) has come an end. The longest partnership-in-training between two nations, NOREX has been, and continues to be, a shining example of the positive reciprocity that can exist between allied militaries.
Together, Norwegian and Minnesotan troops have braved the cold and snow, skied up mountains, and slept in shelters created with bare, or rather gloved, hands. Not only have the two military groups worked hard together, they have also played well together. No event demonstrated that better than the evening of NOREX’s Viking Feast.
Dressed in costumes, designed themselves out of potato sacks, Minnesota troops were treated to an elaborate production re-enacting events which would have taken place in the home of a Viking chieftain. Following the production, each troop was given their own Viking helmet (though made of plastic) and brought to feast on a traditional Norwegian meal.
The following evening also held its traditions, but this time looking a bit more formal than the ancient Vikings. Military leaders from the Minnesota National Guard traveled to Norway to dine with their Norwegian counterparts and the other NOREX participants at a farewell banquet.
“Our troop exchange began in 1974, and is the longest-running military exchange partnership between any two nations,” spoke Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. “This yearly exchange promotes goodwill and sharpens military readiness between our two nations.”
In his address to the gathering at the Camp Vaernes dining facility, Nash shared a brief history of the close military bond between Minnesota and Norway. Afterwards, he presented Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund, Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Home Guard, with a unique gift.
“After the invasion of Norway from Nazi Germany, the 99th Infantry Battalion was created at Camp Ripley, Minn.,” explained Nash. “All members of this unit were of Norwegian decent, and more than half were from Minnesota. Their mission was to assist in the Norwegian Resistance in efforts against the Nazis. Lund, in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the exchange program, we present you with an intact, historically correct uniform from a Minnesota soldier who served in the 99th Infantry Battalion.”
A round of applause arose in the room as Lund took a closer look at the gift. With misty eyes her only words were, “I’m speechless.”
As an idea and partnership that began with a simple handshake, the Norwegian Exchange has grown to represent a unique camaraderie that exists between two nations.
“You have been working hard, and have made the Troop Exchange program what it is today, so thank you,” Lund said, addressing NOREX participants. “I also hope that you have found a lot of friends. That is also an important part of this exchange—the bond between people.”
Having demonstrated the purpose of the Norwegian Exchange; training and friendship building; and seeing it cumulate to one evening, members of the Minnesota National Guard shared one more meal with their Norwegian friends. For many, this certainly won’t be the last.
“Even though I had my first exchange forty years ago, I still keep contact with people,” shared Lund. “I hope that you will come back to Norway again.”