Elements of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) concludes a successful bilateral training event with Norwegian Armed Forces, May 6, 2022.
The training event started April 11 and was conducted throughout northern Norway, including in Setermoen and Blatind. U.S. and Norwegian Armed Forces conducted cold weather training, multiple integrated live fire events, shock trauma platoon medical training, casualty evacuation drills, explosive ordnance training, and reconnaissance and marksmanship training.
The training began with the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), flagship of the Kearsarge ARG and 22nd MEU, and Whidbey-Island class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) arriving in Tromsø and Narvik, respectively, to offload MEU elements and equipment.
“We thought coming to Norway would be a challenging opportunity. We were right – it was,” Col. Paul C. Merida, commanding officer of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, said. “Operating in this part of the world is a challenge at sea, in the air, and on land. But as Marines, we have to come up here and do it. I’ve never heard of an ARG-MEU team operating above the Arctic Circle, but we proved it can be done. This was a superb experience with our Norwegian Allies and the unit to unit partnership was first class.”
Lt. Col. Ryan B. Cohen, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion 6th Marines, 22nd MEU Ground Combat Element, echoed Col. Merida’s sentiments about the importance of the training event for professional and personal development alongside Norwegian Allies.
“Our commitment to our Norwegian brothers and sisters is steeled and our fighting spirits are high,” said Cohen. “It is an honor and privilege to integrate and partner with our Norwegian brethren. Brigade North brings professionalism, warfighting readiness, physical grit and a fighting spirit that should enable all to sleep peacefully at night, knowing Norway is guarded by some of our world’s finest warfighters.”
As part of the training event, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 (Reinforced), assigned to the 22nd MEU, flew MV-22 Ospreys and AH-1 Cobra helicopters from Bardufoss Airfield training site, between Tromsø and Narvik, transporting equipment to and from the USS Kearsarge during the on load of U.S. Marine Corps equipment. While training in Bardufoss, VMM-263 conducted aircraft flight training with the Norwegian Air Wing, enhancing interoperability and increasing proficiency in cold weather flight operations.
“VMM-263 (REIN) is greatly appreciative of the opportunity to conduct bilateral and squadron sustainment training while in Bardufoss, Norway,” said Lt. Col. Joe “Angry” Andrejack, commanding officer of VMM-263 (REIN). “We increased our aviation readiness and proficiency and established a new baseline for professional relationships with Norwegian partners.
The mission-set flexibility and diversity that Kearsarge brought to the training ensured that Sailors and Marines across the ARG-MEU benefitted from events and scenarios connected to the overall training opportunity.
“The cooperative training between U.S. and Norwegian military forces showcases the long standing relationship between the United States and Norway,” said Capt. Tom Foster, commanding officer of Kearsarge. “We’ve learned many lessons operating in the high north and with the Norwegian military. At sea, we specifically experienced how respectful you have to be of the environment, how fast it can change, and the importance of robust safety contingencies built into our operations to account for change. This is exactly the reason we are operating in the North and learning how to do so safely from our partners in Norway.”
During the scheduled port visits in Tromsø, Kearsarge ARG-MEU leadership were greeted on the pier by Mayor of Tromsø’s Office members followed by a flagship tour.
“The Kingdom of Norway has been hospitable and warm-welcoming to the Kearsarge ARG-MEU team. We are grateful for the opportunities to train alongside our Norwegian counterparts, learn from their expertise, and share capabilities to strengthen our armed forces,” said Capt. David Guluzian, commander of the Kearsarge ARG and Amphibious Squadron SIX. “Our Sailors and Marines are especially thankful to the cities of Tromsø and Narvik for allowing us to enjoy the rich culture Norway has to offer.”
The Kearsarge ARG and embarked 22nd MEU are under the command and control of Task Force 61/2. The ARG consists of USS Kearsarge; the San-Antonio class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24); and the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44).
Embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron SIX, 22nd MEU, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2, and Beach Master Unit 2.
Amphibious ready groups and larger amphibious task forces provide military commanders a wide range of flexible capabilities including maritime security operations, expeditionary power projection, strike operations, forward naval presence, crisis response, sea control, deterrence, counter-terrorism, information operations, security cooperation and counter-proliferation, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with Allied and interagency partners, to advance U.S. national interests, security, and stability in Europe and Africa.