Marines Will Stay, Train in Norway After Big Military Exercise Canceled
Gina Harkins / Military.com
(February 18, 2021) — About 1,000 Marines who arrived in Norway last month — only to have their military exercises canceled due to the pandemic — will remain in the country for arctic training.
The Marines will be in Norway’s high north region until spring, continuing “valuable arctic and mountain warfare training,” Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa spokesman, said Thursday.
While a small number of Marines headed back to the US after Norwegian officials canceled a pair of multinational exercises there last month, most of the members of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, who arrived in the country last month stayed put, he said.
“The United States has a long and close relationship with Norway on issues of defense and security, and that close security relationship continues to mature,” Rankine-Galloway said. “Norway offers challenging, rugged terrain that hones our cold-weather and mountain warfare skills with top specialists in fighting and winning in arctic conditions — the Norwegian military.”
Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen announced Jan. 26 that two exercises, Reindeer I and Joint Viking, would be canceled over high rates of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly 3,500 troops from five countries were set to participate.
Reports of new COVID-19 cases in Norway have since fallen from a January spike of more than 900 new cases in one day to 358 reported Wednesday, according to global health data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.
Rankine-Galloway said when the Marines arrived in Norway last month, they were isolated and didn’t interact with Norwegian personnel until the quarantine period passed “unless medically necessary.”
Several Marines tested positive for COVID-19 while they were in quarantine, he added, though he declined to say how many, citing Pentagon policy not to provide specific numbers of cases for operational security reasons.
“The COVID-positive individuals, as well as identified close contacts within the Marine contingent, were isolated and quarantined in accordance with US and Norwegian public health protocols,” Rankine-Galloway said. “We will continue to enforce strict measures to mitigate the risk of COVID transmission amongst our forces, our Norwegian allies, and the local populace.”
The Marines remaining in Norway are following local and US COVID-19 safety protocols during their training, he said.
“We are working closely with Norwegian military and public health officials to ensure that the Marine Corps deployment will be carried out in a safe manner,” he added.
The Marine Corps has been sending units to train in Norway for years. For about four years, Marines had a yearlong presence there, with units changing out every six months.
Last year, the Marine Corps announced it was overhauling its mission in the Scandinavian country, swapping regular rotations for what the service calls an “episodic deployment model” that aligns with big Norwegian military training exercises.
Norway Cancels Big Military Exercise After 1,000 US Marines Arrive in Country
(January 27, 2021) — After the Norwegian government canceled an international military exercise this week, the US Marine Corps is determining what to do with the 1,000 Marines who arrived there earlier this month to train.
Norwegian Defence Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen canceled the exercise on Tuesday, citing spikes in coronavirus cases in the country.
“We must be one step ahead to try to avoid the spread of the mutated, and more contagious variant of the virus,” Bakke-Jensen said. “We have weighed the arguments and our decision has been to cancel the planned allied exercise activity in Troms.”
About 3,400 troops from Norway, the US, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany were scheduled to participate in the cold-weather training exercises, called Rein I and Joint Viking. All but about 500 of them had already arrived in Troms to train.
Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa spokesman, said there will now be a controlled termination of the exercise in line with COVID-19 restrictions.
“We are working closely with our Norwegian military counterparts to determine the next steps with our Marines who are currently deployed to Norway,” Rankine-Galloway said.
About 1,000 Marines arrived in Setermoen, Norway, earlier this month. Troms is about 100 miles north of Setermoen, near the Barents Sea. The waterway is considered Russia’s naval backyard.
Bakke-Jensen said as of Tuesday, there would be a halt in the arrival of new allied forces to Indre Troms. For those forces already in place, there will be a “well-planned departure.”
More than 61,000 Norwegians have been infected with COVID-19, the sometimes-fatal illness caused by the new coronavirus. More than 500 people have died of the virus there.
The country has seen 14,637 new cases over the last month, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. That’s close to the record-high 15,819 cases Norway recorded in November — the highest level there since the start of the global pandemic.
More than 2.1 million people have died from the virus worldwide. Medical experts are also warning about a new strain of the virus that is more contagious and possibly more deadly.
Last year’s iteration of Cold Response, another major NATO exercise, was also significantly scaled back due to the pandemic. Training in and around the Arctic Circle has been a priority for NATO forces to counter Russia in the region.
Bakke-Jensen said some winter training could be tailored “in adherence with proper infection prevention measures until the various departure dates.”
“I want to thank all our allies who have shown great flexibility and understanding in a challenging situation,” the defense minister said.
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