News: Marines in Norway attend memorial ceremony for fallen comrades of the C-130J crash
Story by Lance Cpl. Marcin Platek
EVENES, Norway — The Norwegian flags were lowered to half-staff as the confirmations of crash debris and human remains came in late Saturday evening, March 17.
For Marines at the Exercise Cold Response 2012 combat operation center in Harstad, Norway, it meant taking a pause to attend the memorial ceremony held here, March 18, for five Norwegian crash victims of the C-130J Hercules plane.
“I offer my deepest heart-felt condolences to the families,” said Col. Mark A. Smith, the deputy commander for 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, and the detachment commander for 24th Marines participating in Cold Response. “You just know that five families have been turned upside-down on Saturday. That’s the part that sticks with you the most, knowing what their families are going through and what they are going to go through after the Cold Response is over.”
Along with seven other Marines involved with Cold Response, Smith represented the U.S. forces involved in the exercise at the memorial ceremony held in a hanger at the Evenes Airport here.
“It was an outstanding service,” said Smith. “It was very appropriate and very well done. It was well organized when you consider that they had soldiers from multiple nations all showing up at one time.”
There were approximately 750 people from six different nations present at the ceremony, said Smith. Along with the King of Norway Harald V, there were a number of other high-ranking officials present at the ceremony.
The ceremony included a service held by a Norwegian army chaplain and a speech by Norwegian Vice Adm. Haakon Bruun-Hanssen, commander of Norwegian Joint Headquarters, who is also conducting Cold Response.
The fallen Norwegians came from small units where all the soldiers are close friends, he said during the ceremony.
“Our thoughts go to them and to the personnel of the Norwegian air force,” said Bruun-Hanssen. “At the same time, we already know, that the memories lost and the deepest grief belongs to the closest families and relatives of the deceased. And at this hour our thoughts go especially to them.”
According to the Norwegian officials, the transport plane was flying from the airport here to Kiruna, Sweden, March 15, as it disappeared off the radars.
Norwegian and Swedish rescue teams were sent out immediately but the severe Arctic weather caused the search missions to be unsuccessful for two days.
The plane remains were found scattered on the northwest ridge of Mount Kebnekaise in Northern Sweden, March 17. Later in the day, the authorities also confirmed that human remains have been found.
The cause of the crash is under investigation but bad weather was reported in the area at the time.
The plane was flying to Kiruna to pick up personnel and equipment for Cold Response. The multinational invitational event focuses on rehearsing mid-intensity operations in winter conditions and exercising the interoperability with the NATO allies.
This year, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, is taking part in the biennial exercise. The exercise also involves 16,000 troops from 14 other nations.
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