Marine Corps Base Quantico -- On Nov. 9, 87 cadets and their instructors from the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy in Bergen, Norway, began a four-day training program at Officer Candidates School. While most candidates arrive at OCS via a combination of air and personal vehicle travel, the Norwegian cadets sailed a 101-year-old, three-masted steel bark known as the “Statsraad Lehmkuhl” from Norway to Baltimore.
The Atlantic crossing took six weeks, said RNoNA superintendent, CAPT Jon Ivar Kjellin, though it wasn’t the first trip for the ship or the cadets’ leaders. “We have taken the ship to the US 12 times since 2002. It’s actively used to train cadets 12 weeks per year.” Kjellin also said the ship first traveled to the United States in 1952. According to multiple historical accounts, during the 1952 visit, the ship sailed up the Hudson River and docked in New York.
During their recent journey, which began September 22, the cadets learned the ins and outs of sailing en route with the assistance of a professional crew of 23. They took turns rigging the 22 sails aboard the ship in between lessons on navigation, history, and other topics.
“The cadets are in the first year of a three-year program” that began in July, said Kjellin. “They take professional military courses the first year,” followed by more traditional academic topics, such as “math, physics, logistics, and engineering in the second year,” Kjellin added.
As he observed the cadets working their way through the Combat Course, Norwegian LCDR Sindre Lid commented that at OCS, “there is a different focus on discipline and details, and we hope our squads will develop some of that. If you’re not focused on small things, things can go really bad.”
This iteration of training was Lid’s second time at OCS with a group of cadets. He flew over from Norway for the training but will sail back with the cadets as their commanding officer.
He appreciated the diversity of training events at OCS and the opportunity for the students to train with the Marines. “You learn different things from different people you meet.”
While Lid said the cadets are just getting started with their training at RNoNA, some of them are already very experienced militarily, with multiple deployments to Afghanistan under their belts. Much like the American military academies, the Norwegian school takes a mix of students that includes those straight out of high school and those with prior enlisted military experience.
Throughout their four days at OCS, the male and female cadets trained and bunked together. Norwegian LCDR Oyvind Skreien said they normally do so back home, though it was a newer training model for OCS, as male and female candidates generally live and train separately. “In the Norwegian military, men and women train and live together in teams and rooms,” and there have been no major problems, Skreien said.
Capt. Scott Mahaffey, the visits and protocol officer at OCS, assisted with coordination for the visit and the conduct of the training, leading the cadets on a six-mile hike on November 11. “I was very impressed with their physical strength and tactical ability. You can tell they’ve worked with each other over the past six months.”
Echoing Lid’s comments, Mahaffey said that the “Marines gain the very important experience of operating with a like force and picking up some of the intricate details that make the Norwegians successful. They also exchange training ideas that make us successful. Much like a deployment with an allied force, this is another important training opportunity for the constant flow and exchange of ideas.”
While many Americans associate modern-day Norwegians with their Viking forebears, Kjellin said “we don’t focus on that. We want to focus on combat and use the experience of the students who have deployed to Afghanistan to help the more inexperienced cadets.”
After the final training event on November 12, the Norwegians boarded a bus for Norfolk, where they met the ship for the voyage back to Norway.
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