After a successful 14-day quarantine where the battalion saw zero COVID cases, Marines and Sailors immediately transitioned into the annual interoperability exercise, Thunder Reindeer, located in Norway’s Arctic Circle. The exercise included opportunities to practice live-fire and combined arms training as well as air integration. On the ground, the Marines found themselves setting up camp in snowy, rocky terrain, much different than the humid, swamp land they were used to at their home station in North Carolina. In the morning the Marines tactically integrated with the Norwegians and provide support by fire.
Marine scout snipers maneuvered through forests across mountainous terrain to practice stealthy link up procedures with their Norwegian counterparts without giving away a position. Marines also integrated with a Norwegian artillery battalion and learned how their NATO counterpart conducts a call-for-fire, an exercise held each year. The Norwegians were able to integrate air, land, and naval assets to include F-35s in a joint setting at the battalion-level for the first time. The Norwegian government announced its support for purchasing F-35s in 2008, and the first round of jets became operational in late 2019.
During Thunder Reindeer, simulated air support was conducted with Norway’s 2nd Army Battalion, and it integrated Marine forward air controllers.
While out in the arctic climate and mountainous terrain of northern Norway, contact with participating F-35 jets was reached, a milestone previously unattained by 2nd Battalion. As a result, troops on the ground received the simulated support needed. The Marines are expected to operate in Norway until the fall, and they and the Norwegians plan to hold various exercises during that time for continued inoperability and arctic training. The Marine Corps lfocuses on cold-weather and mountain-warfare training and military-to military engagements to enhance interoperability with allies and partners.