News: Texas Air Guard engineers dig Norway, train with Krigsskolen cadets
Story by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
RYGGE AIR STATION, Norway – About 50 U.S. airmen assigned to the 149th Civil Engineering Squadron, a subordinate unit of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas, trained with Royal Norwegian military cadets on construction projects here, near Moss, and in Oslo, Norway, Aug. 12-19, 2013.
The Kingdom of Norway is located in Scandinavia, which also includes the Kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden, in northern Europe. Norway has membership in the NATO alliance and currently has military personnel deployed across the globe who are serving alongside U.S. forces.
The airmen were in on-hand for a training exercise with the Norwegian armed forces called Impeccable Glove 2013, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher A. Miller, the squadron’s commander and a graduate of the civil engineering program at Texas A&M University, in College Station, Texas.
U.S. participation was sponsored through the deployment for training program, which is administered by the National Guard Bureau, headquartered in Arlington, Va., he said.
“DFTs enable Air National Guard civil engineering units to receive real-world training within the United States or abroad,” Miller said. “Our members have previously deployed to Camp Moreno, in California, as well as Armenia in support of the program.”
As part of their deployment, the Texas airmen collaborated with Royal Norwegian Air Force personnel and with senior Royal Norwegian military cadets enrolled in the engineering program at the Norwegian Military Academy (Krigsskolen), at Camp Linderud, in Oslo.
Krigsskolen is “Scandinavia’s oldest (institution of) higher education,” said Norwegian Army Maj. Anders C. Haavik-Nilsen, the academy’s chief instructor of military technology and engineering.
The academy was established in 1750 and has been at its current, Linderud location since 1969, he said. Upon graduation, cadets earn a bachelor of military science and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Royal Norwegian Army.
The joint training paired a Norwegian cadet with an American noncommissioned officer to manage the projects, which were implemented by work crews from the 149th CES.
Impeccable Glove 2013 consisted of six projects, said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Rosario Muñoz, a water and fuels systems maintenance supervisor and the Texas ANG project manager for the deployment. They were undertaken here and at the academy.
“The projects include: structures, electrical and roadway repair,” said Muñoz. “Throughout, our airmen are upgrading their proficiency levels for their AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) and our broader career-field.”
The leadership at Rygge selected the projects, but the Kriggskolen cadets completed their design and troubleshooting, said Haavik-Nilsen, who’s also a graduate of the academy.
One of the cadets explained the different challenges he had to overcome to complete his project, which included structural repairs and upgrades to a canoe storage facility at Rygge.
“We started to plan (the projects) before summer,” said Cadet Kjetil Waal, one of the Norwegian project managers. “You learn a lot because everything doesn’t go as planned – you have to improvise.”
Other projects included: assembling and raising a steel-frame structure at Krigsskolen; constructing a multi-layer, reinforced steel vault at Krigsskolen; constructing an exterior wall at Krigsskolen; digging a cable trench and installing lighting masts at a shooting range at Rygge; and repairing roadway, and digging a drainage ditch and laying a drainage pipe at Rygge.
“This is the first time we’ve had projects inside our camp (at Krigsskolen),” said Haavik-Nilsen. However, U.S. Air National Guard engineers have participated in Impeccable Glove for about 20 years. Previously, units have carried out projects on property near the academy, at Rygge, and at Ørland Main Air Station, which is located in central Norway.
The projects had many moving pieces and some challenges to complete – Rygge and Kriggskolen are separated by approximately 65 km (40 miles) or about a one-hour drive by automobile.
“We’ve had to adjust to using their materials, which are different that ours, but the materials here in Norway are pretty good,” Muñoz said. “We’ve had to adjust for not having our cellphones here – it’s been an adjustment for project management.”
However, the Texas-based engineers were able to hit the ground running with their knowledge of weights and measurement scales that differ from the United States.
“Our guys are pretty good with the metric system and being able to adjust, since we’ve deployed several times,” Muñoz said. “It’s working very well, (and) the Norwegians speak English, which is a plus for us.”
In addition to DFTs, the 149th CES regularly deploys to participate in Silver Flag, a combat readiness exercise for Air Force civil engineers, and has twice deployed to Iraq since 9/11, in 2004 and 2010, she said. Their training and operations are conducted in accordance with Air Force Instruction 10-210, Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) Program, among others.
Waal said that he was initially nervous about working with the U.S. airmen.
“I know I can explain myself in English,” Waal said, “but there are all these words that I don’t know. We haven’t done anything like this. We usually do regular soldier training – this is more about management, planning and cooperation.”
Impeccable Glove is the first experience the cadets have had with foreign military personnel, said Haavik-Nilsen. “They’ve got their challenges – it’s not easy to communicate in their second language.”
The Norwegian cadets received briefings on American culture and discussed different leadership styles with their instructors before the Air National Guardsmen arrived, he said. “They’ve got to find out these things themselves – there’s not really any answers.”
“It’s very significant,” Haavik-Nilsen said of the exercise. “They’ve done the theory in all the engineering subjects, they’ve done the project management, they’ve read a lot about leadership, and they’ve done English at school and a little cultural understanding. And now it’s time to put it all together and see if it works.”
“On these projects, we do training (on) leadership, project management and all the engineering subjects at the same time. It doesn’t help if you can do them separately – you’ve got to be able to put it together and make things work,” Haavik-Nilsen said.
Waal said his nerves were quickly put at-ease once his project got underway.
“I don’t have the knowledge – I’m not a carpenter,” Waal said. “I like challenges, but one of the things I didn’t know was how good they were at what they did.”
The airmen and cadets each benefited from the bilateral training.
“We’ve been working very well with the Norwegians,” said Muñoz. “We’re getting our upgrade training and also helping them with their projects. Their cadets are also getting training and getting graded.”
“We both get training and learn from the experience,” Muñoz said.
In addition to accomplishing their U.S. National Guard training, an added benefit of the deployment is the opportunity for members of the squadron to build esprit de corps.
“We are like a family,” Muñoz said. “When we travel together, we’re like brothers and sisters.”
“It’s (been) an incredible experience getting to work with the Norwegians,” Muñoz said. “Their hospitality has been amazing.”