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  • Feb
  • 2016
BSRF Marines put survival skills to the test in Norway

By Cpl. Immanuel Johnson, Marine Corps Forces Europe

SKOGANVARRE, Norway -- U.S. Marines and sailors with Black Sea Rotational Force started cold-weather training 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle, Skoganvarre, Norway Feb. 4-6, 2016.

Skoganvarre is in the Finnmark region of Northern Norway and is filled with plateaus and more than 130 lakes.

“We are doing cold-weather training in preparation for the upcoming exercise Cold Response 16,” said Staff Sgt. Jake Roby, a platoon sergeant with Black Sea Rotational Force. “Being able to work with NATO allies and conduct our mission in a cold weather environment effectively is the goal.”

The Norwegian military is hosting BSRF Marines and sailors at the Arctic Training Center North while the U.K. Royal Commando mountain leaders are teaching them how to survive and operate tactically in extreme environments. 

A snowshoe hike and setting up 10-man tents aimed to test the skills learned within the first weeks of classroom and hands-on training.

“Setting up involved a lot of small-unit leadership as well as [efficiency]” said Cpl. Jimmy Sarath, a radio operator with BSRF. 

The unit conducted night movements, led by the U.K. Royal Marine instructors, assessing and hands-on analysis of ice thickness, and survival and avalanche skills while exposed to the arctic elements. 

“I think the snowshoe hike through the thick snow and pulling the pulk [sled] emphasized a teamwork mentality that comes out when you are working as a group for an extended period of time,” Roby said. 

“Applying the skill sets the [U.K.] Royal Commandos taught us will ensure we receive the best training possible.”

Survival skills taught Marines and sailors techniques to be used in extreme and dangerous situations, from setting up a shelter to catching and killing their own food.

“Working with the [U.K.] Royal Commandos is a positive experience; they demonstrate professionalism in all the classes we have been taught,” Sarath said. “It is great seeing that military-to-military training strengthening ties and Marines grasping knowledge from them.”

Operating in winter conditions exposes Marines to new environments and creates new capabilities by learning from NATO allies.

“The avalanche training we received was beneficial, especially for Marines who have not experienced the snow before,” Sarath said. “This is my first time dealing with extreme cold. It isn’t hard to adjust if you do exactly as the Royal Commandos have taught.”
The training will help Marines better support their NATO allies when they deploy for Cold Response 16 later this month.

“Marines have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of cold weather injuries and how to prevent them,” Roby said. “When they are conducting a mission in extreme weather, they can move to the objective more effectively knowing how to operate in this environment.”
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