Exercise Cold Response Sees ‘huge step forward’ in Norwegian Army/US Marine Corps integration

US marines maintain equipment at the US Marine Corps Setermoen facility during Exercise ‘Cold Response 22’ in March. (Norwegian Armed Forces)
US marines maintain equipment at the US Marine Corps Setermoen facility during Exercise ‘Cold Response 22’ in March. (Norwegian Armed Forces)

The Norwegian-hosted NATO amphibious Exercise Cold Response, which took place in northern Norway in March, highlighted the increasing integration between the Norwegian Army and the US Marine Corps (USMC).

While the two forces have a long-established relationship, integration has increased significantly since 2017 when the USMC established permanent presence in northern Norway, with units rotating through Setermoen, in response to shifting Euro-Atlantic security circumstances.

The increased integration underlines how the relationship has changed since 2014, set against the returning threat, Colonel John Olav Fuglem, the Norwegian Army’s chief of operations, told Armada in an interview at brigade headquarters, Bardufoss, during Cold Response.

2014 was a changing point, Col Fuglem noted. “Prior to that, the training here of foreign forces was more like winter survival training, with military training conducted largely independently …. Now, they are doing integration, operational training, they are doing Arctic warfare together with us.”

“So, the relationship has developed a lot since 2014,” he added. The USMC’s establishment of permanent presence has been a primary factor, especially enabling ‘training the trainers’, Col Fuglem explained. “The main thing we do is bring in some USMC personnel in early October to do some winter training and make them instructors to help the USMC to do its own winter training. Then, when the larger forces come in January, in a short time we can bring them up to quite a good level on their winter basics.”

This provides a basis for integration training, Col Fuglem continued. “We do combined training with them. It’s not just doing manoeuvre with infantry, but integration with artillery, mortars, air defence, all these kinds of things.” “Now we are doing brigade operations together, or joint fires,” he explained. “This is very different from just eight years ago.”

“If you are going to do operations here, you need to have a base and people already here. You need to be trained in this area, for this environment, and you need to have the equipment and familiarisation,” said Col Fuglem. Underlining the USMC’s training development, he added: “Today, you are coming here, you are integrating, and you are fighting with your own equipment – and you’ve probably been here before. That’s the big thing.”

“I think we have taken a huge step forward, both in the integration of forces and understanding command and control in a joint and combined operation,” Col Fuglem said.

In Cold Response, while being on opposing ‘sides’ in the exercise serials, Norway’s Brigade North and USMC forces conducting integration training around the exercise.

Both forces are already looking at building further integration. “When the marines are here, we should do mission rehearsals. The USMC is a part of our plan in this area,” said Col Fuglem. “Today, we are training together with allies, but more forces should probably be an integrated part of an operation, a mission rehearsal.” “We are working on this issue, and I think integration of allied forces will even more important in the future,” he added.

by Dr Lee Willett, Bardufoss, Norway