TRONDHEIM, Norway -- Norwegian soldiers and U.S. Marines are rolling out main battle tanks, artillery, and logistics equipment out of Norwegian caves to support the upcoming exercise, Cold Response 16, later this month.
“We have pre-positioned gear, both in caves and on ships, and it allows forces from the United States to come on out and fall in on gear that is already forward-deployed versus bringing all that gear with us,” said Col. William Bentley, operations officer for 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
The armored vehicles and equipment is part of the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway, an enduring partnership between the two nations to store equipment forward and support rapid-response to a broad spectrum of military operations in support of NATO allies and partners.
“Any gear that is forward-deployed both reduces cost and speeds up our ability to support operations in crisis, so we’re able to fall in on gear that is ready-to-go and respond to whatever that crisis may be,” said Bentley.
The gear is kept in climate-controlled caves strewn throughout central Norway, alleviating logistics costs and movement that has supported numerous missions, from the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Russian wildfires of 2010, to humanitarian assistance mission for the Turkey earthquakes in 2011.
“It always takes time to deploy forces to a certain area; when you have the equipment pre-positioned, you can fly in the personnel and you will be faster and ready to conduct operations, so that’s always the advantage of having [the stocks] in Norway,” said Maj. Gen. Yngue Odlo, chief of Norwegian Defense Staff Operations.
The equipment that greatly increase the program's readiness includes M1A1 Main Battle Tanks, Tank Retrievers, Armored Breeching Vehicles, Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Expanded Capacity Vehicle (ECV) Gun Trucks, and several variants of the MTVR 7-1/2 ton trucks.
The program started under a Cold War plan in 1981 to work with the Norwegian allies and store Marine Corps equipment in Europe to defend NATO. Its first mission was to support Operation Noble Anvil in 1999; since then, MCPPN-N support contingencies and operations throughout the world.
The program will provide approximately 6,500 pieces of equipment for Cold Response 16, hosted by Norway that includes 12 NATO allies and partners and more than 16,000 troops.
“We fit easily together when we are operating,” said Odlo. “The last 10-15 years we’ve operated together… When we come to Norway, we always operate in three dimensions because we have a long coastline, we have land territory, and air; that’s the U.S. Marine Corps, basically.”