SETERMOEN, Norway --
Marines and Sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (Special Operations Capable), embarked on the USS Mesa Verde, with attached elements of Italian Marines from the San Marco Brigade, concluded a successful bilateral training exercise with Brigade North Norwegian Soldiers, aimed at enhancing their warfighting lethality and interoperability with our ally and partners above the Arctic Circle, from Aug. 5 – 21, 2023.
The bilateral training began with the USS Mesa Verde, assigned to the Bataan ARG, and 26th MEU(SOC) Bravo Command Element, arrived in Narvik, Norway on Aug. 5, to offload MEU elements and equipment necessary for the execution of the bilateral training, and concluded with the USS Mesa Verde pulling back in to retrieve the U.S. Marines on Aug.18.
“The Norway bilateral training was a great opportunity to learn, integrate, and operate with our valued NATO Allies and Partners in an arctic environment,” said Lt. Col. Josef Wiese, Executive Officer of the 26th MEU(SOC) and Officer in Charge of the MEU(SOC) Bravo Command Element, aboard the USS Mesa Verde. “The Marines with the 26th MEU(SOC) showcased their ability to integrate and interoperate with our Norwegian and Italian counterparts, strengthening the relationship and trust to work alongside our Allies and Partners in the USEUCOM area of responsibility,” Wiese continued.
Prior to the arrival of our Norwegian counterparts, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force conducted land and air-based training within Setermoen and Bardufoss, to include multiple live-fire ranges, battle drills, land navigation, patrols, and a full mission profile Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel rehearsal.
During the second week of training, the 26th MEU(SOC) Battalion Landing Team 1/6 had the opportunity to integrate with Norwegians from Brigade North, Norwegian Army, sharing tactics and procedures accustomed to each respective country.
“The Marines had a great opportunity to learn how to train and survive in an arctic environment from the Norwegian soldiers,” said 1st. Lt. Timothy Mara, Executive Officer of Charlie Company, BLT 1/6. “They showed us how to make campfires with wet materials, set up tents, stay dry in a cold and wet environment and how to maneuver in an arctic environment. For the Marines, we had the opportunity to demonstrate how we conduct Military Operations in Urbanized Training, immediate action drills and battle drills,” Mara continued.
“After this training, we have a better understanding how the Norwegian Soldiers train and operate, allowing us to be able to effectively plan, communicate and execute any future exercises or operations together.” 1st. Lt. Timothy Mara, Executive Officer of Charlie Company, BLT 1/6
The U.S. Marines and Norwegian soldiers from Brigade North transitioned into an integrated force-on-force, strengthening the relationship with our NATO Ally and partner, as the culminating event of the bilateral training exercise.
“Training with the Norwegian soldiers continues to strengthen relationships with our NATO Ally and partner at all levels of leadership,” states 1st. Lt. Mara, explaining the importance of this bilateral training. “After this training, we have a better understanding how the Norwegian Soldiers train and operate, allowing us to be able to effectively plan, communicate and execute any future exercises or operations together.”
While the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU(SOC) BLT 1/6 were conducting training in Setermoen, the MV-22 Aviation Detachment from the 26th MEU(SOC) Aviation Combat Element, made up from VMM-162 (Reinforced), conducted advanced high-altitude, mountainous flight operations out of various training sites in northern Norway.
VMM-162 provided critical air support during the exercise to include simulated Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel events, Confined Area Landings, Low Altitude Tactics, Mountainous Area Terrain training, and Reduced Visibility Landings within a tactical scenario to increase overall proficiency in MEU(SOC) Mission Essential Tasks and cold weather operating environments.
“Norway has provided the aviators and aircrew from the MV-22B Detachment a great opportunity to conduct quality training in a unique operating environment,” said Maj. Matthew “Poof” Piston, 26th MEU(SOC) MV-22B Detachment Officer in Charge. “The training and bilateral integration we have experienced here has made us a stronger and more capable force and has afforded us the opportunity to demonstrate our ability to operate effectively while distributed in locations far away from the core of the 26th MEU(SOC) ACE,” Piston continued.
The 26th MEU(SOC) serves as one of the United States premier crisis response forces capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response, and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on-forces and designated special operations, in support of theater requirements of the Geographic Combatant Commander. Coupled with the USS Bataan ARG, the 26th MEU(SOC) serves as a premier stand-in force with a full complement of all-domain capabilities to operate persistently within the littorals or weapons engagement zones of any adversary.
The Bataan ARG and embarked forces of the 26th MEU(SOC), under the tactical command and control of Task Force 61/2, is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied, and partner interests.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa operates U.S. Naval Forces in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.