BEITSTAD, Norway - U.S. Marines woke up to a chilling morning in Central Norway. The cold weather represents a major challenge for the troops. But they seem to enjoy it...
The last time Staff Sgt. Carl Lorio trained in Norway, during exercise Strong Resolve six years ago, the mercury didn´t creep as low as this year. But the Marines are well prepared. Through a number of exercises back home in the fall, they have trained to get ready for Norway. Now they´re here.
"We prepared ourselves as much as possible in Fort Drum, N.Y., in the Fall, but didn´t get optimal training. Too little snow, and simply not cold enough. So some of us were taken by surprise when met by snow depths of about a yard," says Lorio as his battalion gets ready to move through the snow. "But we like a challenge, and it looks as though we`re going to get a tremendous outcome from this exercise."
A few miles further north we get to speak to Lt. Col. James G. MacVarish, operations officer at the Marine Air Ground Task Force. He admits he had a rough night.
"It was extremely cold last night. A Norwegian liaison officer slept in our tent, and in the morning I woke up shivering, asking myself whether I was the only one? But the Norwegian was just as cold," MacVarish says with a grin. "So a little later, the Norwegian was gone. When I met him again, he had moved to a heated tent. I thought the Norwegians were supposed to be vikinger than us. So I am proud to say we´re doing well."
The main focus of the American participants is to practice winter warfare. MacVarish speaks about the precautions that need to be taken.
"First, everything has to go slower. These conditions demand a lot of heavy equipment, and we have to wear extra clothes, particularly after dark, when the temperature drops dramatically. We have to practice more on such things as putting up tents in the snow," says MacVarish.
He is happy with what he has seen so far with both his own troops as well the allied forces. But there have been obstacles on the way.
"We`ve had a few challenges. Before we left home, there was a logistics problem, making us have to wait until today for the last 200 personnel. The newcomers haven´t received the required training, and this slows us down a little bit. But people are really making an effort, and support from the Norwegians has been tremendous. It seems they don´t know the word "no,"" says MacVarish.
As for the scenario, the Marines are tasked to fight their way into the fictional land of Utopia to solve ethnic conflicts and provide security for civilians, quite similar to the situation in current areas of operation around the world. MacVarish feels confident he can do the job, together with his 1200 Marines.