Allied and Norwegian Forces Prepare for the Largest Military Exercise in Norway in 2023

Beltevogn-konvoi ved Setermoen
US Marines operate Bandvagn-206 in convoy during Marine Rotational Force- Europe 23.1 in Troms, Northern Norway, January 2023. (Photo: Sgt. Christian M. Garcia / U.S. Marine Corps).

In early March, 10,000 Norwegian and allied soldiers will train to defend Norway in the winter exercise Joint Viking. Soldiers from the US, the Netherlands, and the UK are already preparing and training in Northern Norway.

There is currently high military training activity at Setermoen in Troms, Northern Norway. Forces from the United States, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have already arrived to conduct winter training and preparations for the largest military exercise in Norway this year.

Right now, about 750 Marines from the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) are in place, says Master Sergeant Rolf Ytterstad, the spokesman for the Norwegian Army, to High North News.

Ytterstad explains that the soldiers train for operations in cold weather conditions. Both the US soldiers and the other allied units in place are also specifically preparing for the Joint Viking 23 winter exercise, which begins in early March.

Challenging operations in the north

Kommandérsersjant Rolf Ytterstad, talsperson i Hæren. (Foto: Forsvaret)
Master Sergeant Rolf Ytterstad, spokesperson in the Army. (Photo: The Norwegian Armed Forces).

As High North News recently reported, Norway's Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram and his Dutch colleague Kajsa Ollongren will visit the Norwegian Army and Dutch forces that are now conducting winter training in the Troms area.

According to Ytterstad, about 800 soldiers from the Netherlands Marine Corps will participate in the Joint Viking. 800 Royal Marines from the UK as well as 150 soldiers from the US Army will also take part in the exercise.

"Military operations in the High North are challenging. If allied forces are to be able to operate effectively here, this requires regular training and exercises," Ytterstad says.

"Exercising with allies reinforces the operability between our respective forces. It also highlights allied cohesion and the ability and willingness to defend NATO territory," he adds.

US Marines cold weather training
A soldier from the US Marine Corps trains for operations in cold weather conditions at Setermoen in Troms, Northern Norway. (Photo: Cpl. Megan Ozaki / U.S. Marine Corps).

Joint Viking 23

The Norwegian winter exercise Joint Viking is planned to be the largest military exercise in Norway in 2023. The exercise is conducted regularly and includes land, navy, and air forces, as well as allied forces. The purpose is to train to defend Norway together with allies and civilian partners.

According to the Norwegian Armed Forces, more than 10,000 Norwegian and allied soldiers will train to defend Norway. The main activity will take place in Troms in the period 4–16 March 2023. In addition, there will be Norwegian and allied training, courses, and transport in Norway in January and February.

"NATO is the foundation of Norway's defense. In order to be able to defend Norway, our allies must exercise deploying to Norway. They must also know how to operate along with Norwegian forces in a harsh winter climate," writes the Armed Forces.

Marine Rotational Force-Europe 21.1
Setermoen, 2020: U.S. Marines from Marine Rotational Force-Europe 21.1 conducts safety testing of an assault amphibious vehicle in preparation for exercise Reindeer II, Reindeer I, and Joint Viking exercises in 2020 and 2021 (the latter Joint Viking was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic). (Photo: Cpl. William Chockey / U.S. Marine Corps).

Joint Viking is held every two years but was canceled in 2021 due to the corona pandemic. This year, the exercise is held against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

"Over the past year, the security situation in Europe has deteriorated greatly with the war in Ukraine. The situation really shows how important good preparedness and well-trained military forces are – especially for an elongated and strategically located country that Norway," writes the Armed Forces.

US Marine Corps in Norway

  • US Marines have long participated in training in Norway as part of a rotational force that trains with the Norwegian Armed Forces and other NATO allies.

  • II Marine Expeditionary Force Europe is one of the operational forces within the US Marine Corps and focuses on regional engagements throughout Europe by conducting various exercises, including training for Arctic operations in cold weather conditions, as well as military-to-military engagements.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps launched a major restructuring in 2021 (Force Design 2030), which included scaling back rotational training in Norway.
  • Marine corps soldiers now conduct a more periodic training regime that provides additional flexibility and allows, for example, shorter but larger troop rotations.

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