News: Serving Our Troops thanks Minnesotans serving in Norway
Story by Spc. Linsey Williams
CAMP VAERNES, Norway - Since 2004, the volunteers of the Serving Our Troops organization, based out of St. Paul, Minn., have traveled to military bases around the country and across the globe serving home cooked meals to Minnesota National Guard troops.
To continue their tradition of feeding the troops wherever they may be, the group ventured to Camp Vaernes, Norway, where they served a meal commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX) on Feb, 22.
For one evening, the Serving Our Troops team commandeered the kitchen of the Camp Vaernes dining facility so they could make their world-renown steaks. During that night, both Minnesotan and Norwegian troops alike gathered together for what they called "The American Meal.”
“This is the first time I’m actually doing the big meal here,” said Serving Our Troops member John Marshall. “It’s pretty incredible. You watch the camaraderie; you watch the international relations being built. Folks are having fun, they’re exchanging cultures - it’s a pretty neat event.”
Leadership from across the Minnesota National Guard as well as the Norwegian Home Guard attended the event. From Minnesota, the Army National Guard chief of staff, Col. John Kolb, as well as the Air National Guard vice chief of staff, Col. Lauren Hubert, sat with their Norwegian counterparts whom they’ve worked with throughout the exchange. The officer in charge of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, Col. Dirk Kloss, was also in attendance.
As masters of ceremonies, the NOREX OIC, Army Maj. Troy Fink worked jointly with his counterpart, Norwegian Army Maj. Gard Ommedal, in ensuring that everyone in attendance of the American meal was treated to a great meal, with a great atmosphere in which to enjoy it.
Beginning in 1974, the exchange is the longest-running military exchange partnership between any two nations. The yearly exchange promotes good will and sharpens military readiness between the nations as well as provides opportunities for cultural understanding among its participants. While in Norway, the Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen conduct winter operations training with the Norwegian Home Guard.
“The people are so kind and welcoming,” Marshall continued. “They’re very ‘Minnesotan,’ if you will. It’s a great exchange.”