Minnesota service members prepare for Norwegian Exchange

March 6, 2022 (CAMP RIPLEY, Minn.) — More than 120 Airmen and Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard gathered at Camp Ripley recently to prepare for the 49th Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange (NOREX). The annual troop exchange sends Minnesota National Guard members to Norway and Norwegian service members to Minnesota where each can learn from the other both militarily and culturally.

During the preparation weekend, the goal was team building. The Minnesota service members also learned foundational skiing and snowshoeing skills to prepare them for the exchange.

“This weekend’s primary goal was to familiarize Soldiers and Airmen with our upcoming exercise and ensure they have the right training and background to be successful during NOREX,” said Army Maj. Tracy Mankowski, the officer in charge of Minnesota’s NOREX contingent. “One of our key events this weekend was a platoon team building event. For some of our newest Airmen and Soldiers, this is not only their first overseas training mission, but this is their first joint training experience.”

The preparation drill allowed service members to meet each other and integrate into their new platoons for the training mission later this spring. For one service member, Senior Airmen Ariel Carlson, the preparation drill was exciting.

“I have Norwegian heritage, so I am excited to learn the culture and see it firsthand,” said Carlson.

Carlson has served in the Air Force for more than three years; however, she has only been on one mission outside of the country. The exchange, which began as an annual event in 1974, will be her first overseas mission.

“I am excited to learn the culture and see it firsthand.”

Senior Airmen Ariel Carlson

NOREX seeks to promote goodwill and build military readiness amongst both nations.

When the exchange begins, Minnesota National Guard service members will travel to Norway to train with the Norwegian Home Guard, known as the Heimevernet. At the same time, a group of service members from the Norwegian Home Guard will travel here to train with members of the Minnesota National Guard.

The Norwegian service members will participate in domestic response training alongside Minnesota National Guard members and local civilian law enforcement agencies. They will also experience a taste of Minnesota culture and food.

In a state whose residents claim ancestry largely from Germany, Norway and Sweden, many Minnesotans have a shared heritage with their partners in Norway. However, the two countries also have many unique aspects of their culture to share with the other. There is a significant focus on strengthening relationships and partnerships through cultural and social events that bring the two nations together.

Story by Capt. Jodine Eells and Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh