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Old 03-05-2005, 01:29 AM
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Default Marines take on Norway's cold climate

Marines take on Norway's cold climate


By Ben Murray, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Saturday, March 5, 2005



In order to stay prepared for the heat of battle, a group of Marines this week found itself immersed in the cold.

Knee-deep snow, chilling winds and subzero temperatures met the approximately 1,100 members of Marine Air Ground Task Force 25 when they landed in Norway on Monday, said Lance Cpl. Andy Puga, from the unit?s 25th Marine Regiment.

The troops are in the northern European country to take part in a massive multinational training exercise called Battle Griffin 2005, being hosted by Norway this week. Designed to test NATO-member countries? ability to respond to a Kosovo-like military and humanitarian crisis in harsh conditions, the 10-day training program drew about 14,000 troops from 15 nations, according to information from the Norwegian military.

The exercise kicked off Monday with the Marines arriving to respond to a simulated clash of regional of factions planned to put thousands of ?civilians? in danger, said Maj. Rick Wells, also of the 25th Marine Regiment?s headquarters company, based in Worcester, Mass.

So far the troops ? hailing from a medley of reserve units based all around the United States ? have managed to work together well under vicious conditions, he said.

?It?s cold,? Wells said. ?These folks must have thin blood up here.?

Wells and Puga spoke by phone Wednesday from a temporary command post about 20 miles north of Trondia, Norway, where Puga said a fast-setting sun would soon send the troops back to their billets ? basic, three-person tents staked out in the snow ? for the night.

For the Marines, some of who had never seen snow before the trip to Norway, the adjustment to the weather has been challenging, but they?re already learning how to adjust, Puga said. Don?t wear your uniform to bed, the troops have learned, because the insulated sleeping bags will make a Marine sweat, then freeze when he has to get out, Puga said.

The plan for the troops over the next few days, Wells said, is for the ground combat element of the task force to move north, securing areas and evacuating role-playing noncombatants wherever needed.

Participating nations have also brought in dozens of aircraft, from Spanish F-18 fighters to a pair of Polish MiG-29s, and swarmed the coastline with patrol boats and minesweepers, according to the official Web site for the exercise.

But although thousands of troops from more than a dozen countries have all but taken over parts of central Norway for the exercise, local residents remained friendly to the Marines, Wells said.

?We feel welcome. We feel loved,? he said.

For Puga, the exercise has also meant a chance to take in the scenery of snowbound Norway, where the northern lights were on display Tuesday night, he said.

The countryside, ?is more picturesque than anything I could ever think of,? he said.
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