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Joint Exercise to Test Tactical Forces in Cold-Weather Environment

Feb. 19, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Some U.S. forces stationed in Europe will head north March 2 to participate in Cold Response 2020, a biennial exercise hosted by Norway focusing mostly on operations at the tactical level in cold-weather environments.

A map shows northern Norway. Inset is a smaller map of nations bordering the Atlantic Ocean, with Norway highlighted in blue.
Exercise Map
Exercise Cold Response 2020 takes place in Norway, March 2-28, 2020. The exercise will take place primarily in the north, near Tromso.
Photo By: Norwegian Ministry of Defense
VIRIN: 200219-O-ZZ999-001C

"All U.S. military services will participate to sharpen our military capabilities and allied cooperation in high-intensity warfighting in a challenging Arctic environment with rugged terrain and extreme cold weather," Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Hermesmann, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, said yesterday during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Belgium.

Between 15,000 and 16,000 service members from the U.S., Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are expected to participate in Cold Response 2020, said Norwegian Rear Adm. Sverre Engeness.

A military vehicle heads down a snow-covered road.
Awaiting Transport
A light armored vehicle awaits transportation by rail at Hell Station in Hell, Norway, in advance of Exercise Cold Response 2016, Feb. 12, 2016.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Dalton Precht
VIRIN: 160212-M-WI309-013C

This is "an exercise designed for and focused on the tactical units," Engeness said. "They are the primary training audience."

He said the exercise will predominantly involve land and amphibious forces, but sea and air forces also will participate.

While the exercise has been in the planning stages for months, the units at the lowest levels will not get a real sense of that planning, he said. Instead, he explained, "they will have all the challenges they require for tactical interoperability and integration and so forth."

Hermesmann said Cold Response 2020 will exercise the ability of American forces to deploy large numbers of service members inside Europe in support of NATO allies and European partners.

A cloud blooms out of a snowfield. Two service members watch.
Cold Response
Two service members watch an explosion in Rena, Norway, in advance of Exercise Cold Response 2016, Feb. 22, 2016.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi
VIRIN: 160222-M-EO036-064C

"By aggressively training and conducting these realistic exercises in some extremely harsh environments, these participating U.S. forces, alongside forces from Norway and allies and partners, will hone their lethal skills, fine-tune their interoperability, nurture key working relationships and acclimate to the challenges posed by fighting in extreme cold and in rugged mountainous terrain," Hermesmann said.

While the U.S. military has areas available for cold-weather training, Hermesmann said, the environment in Norway is unlike anything else on Earth. But that's not the only reason the U.S. wants to participate in Cold Response, he said.

A Marine stands in the snow. He holds his left hand above his head, and a chain dangles from his hand.
Chain Work
A Marine prepares tie-down chains before transporting vehicles by rail at Hell Station in Hell, Norway, in advance of Exercise Cold Response 2016, Feb. 12, 2016.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Dalton A. Precht
VIRIN: 160212-M-WI309-043A

"We have a critical ally, which is the Norwegian military and Norwegian people. For those reasons, that's why we are here in Norway," he said. "Exercises such as Cold Response 2020 exhibit the capabilities and cooperation, the strength and steadfast commitment, as well as the determination and dedication of the U.S. and allied and partner nations have for maintaining the secure and stable Arctic."

The Cold Response 2020 exercise takes place in an area of northern Norway that stretches from the town of Narvik to the Finnmark district. The main part of the exercise will be located in the district of Troms.