Jacksonville, Fla. --
Ten Norwegian service members from the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway landed on the West Coast April 18 to begin a week-long tour of select installations in California and Florida.
The familiarization tour was in direct support of the prepositioning program and fulfilled Headquarters Marine Corps’ reciprocal U.S.–Norway bilateral responsibility to host an annual visit. The tour officially began April 20 with a trip to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Other sites visited were Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the USS Rushmore and Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
The visit ended April 24 at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, Fla., a hub for Marine Corps prepositioning that coordinates and directs the maintenance and equipment rotation effort and conducts quality assurance on prepositioned equipment and supplies.
The tour was set up by MCPP-N’s Kevin Finch, prepositioning analyst and a former Marine master sergeant, and Capt. Matthew K. Mulvey, prepositioning officer.
The Marine Corps has had equipment prepositioned in Norway since 1981, and Mulvey said having equipment stored in their facilities is extremely beneficial. It enables the Marine Corps to get to the fight quicker by allowing Marines to fly and link up with their equipment, vice preparing and deploying it from their respective home station.
“The proof is in the usage of the equipment,” said Mulvey, a Cherryville, N.C., native, referring to the equipment used out of Norway for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as humanitarian operations and theater security cooperation exercises in Europe and Africa.
The Norwegians have provided comprehensive tours of their military facilities and the aim was to reciprocate by showing them the Corps’ best West Coast training and operational facilities and showcase premier war fighting training and procurement programs, Finch said.
Among the visiting servicemen was Norwegian army Col. Marten Dronen, who is the officer-in-charge of the logistics division at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters.
“The tour was very beneficial to us,” Dronen said. “It’s important to see and learn what Marines are capable of doing with the gear that’s stored in our caves. It also helps strategic planning and development from our end.”
The tour also showed Norwegians training that follows the current war-time tempo, as well as recruit training.
“We wanted to give a broader picture on the whole [Marine Air Ground Task Force],” Mulvey said. “It’s important that our NATO partners know what we are capable of – using the equipment we have stored in their caves.”
When the group wasn’t touring any Marine Corps installations, everyone spend their free time socializing and becoming familiar with their NATO partners.
The party spent a couple of nights out to dine in Palm Springs, Calif., San Diego and Jacksonville, Fla. All agreed that socializing with each other was also an important part of the trip.
“It was very useful to come together for a trip like this and get to know one another out of the uniform – it builds good rapport,” Dronen said. “Seeing each other’s culture was very important too. We have many similarities.”
Dronen also said the most memorable part of the tour was the visit to MCRD San Diego where they received a taste of recruit training and a guided orientation from a few Marine Corps drill instructors.
“The trip gave me a better understanding of our comrades (Marines),” said Norwegian army Capt. Thore Allen Gronning, officer-in-charge of Norwegian home guardsmen whose duties include guarding the caves when activated. “It gives us a great reassurance that the Marines are well-trained and well-equipped for anything they will be needed for.”
The tour ended with a cook-out at Plato’s old home in Jacksonville, Fla. The group enjoyed an evening of oysters, shrimp and a few games of horseshoes. The Norwegians assembled a “Horseshow Dream Team” that successfully beat all challengers, to include several attempts by the home team.
The next time Marines and Norwegian military officers meet will be on Norway’s turf this summer when a few Marines from Blount Island Command will conduct some inspections and routine maintenance on the equipment stored in Norway’s caves.
The program consists of three equipment caves, three ammunition caves and two hangers loaded with prepositioning equipment, supplies and ammunition in the Trondheim Region of central Norway. Specifically included are items that would otherwise stress strategic left through weight and cubic limitations.