In freezing cold Finnmark weather, in front of a row of tracked vehicles, Captain Mark Edgar from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) gives instructions to the marines in his company. During exercise Joint Viking in Finnmark they are under the command of the Norwegian Telemark Battalion.
"Training with the Norwegians have been outstanding. We have planned this together since September, so it has been a smooth transition. It has been a really good experience for us to work with the Norwegians", says Captain Mark Edgar
Winter warfare is challenging
Excercise Joint Viking is well underway when we meet the Marines. Edgar tells us that the Arctic weather has been the greatest challenge for the Marines, as his company usually is based on the East Coast of the United States.
"There are many challenges here, such as snow, cold temperatures and the terrain, but this is exactly why we come up here to train. The only way to effectively operate in this Arctic environment is to come here", Edgar says.
He has not experienced any challenges related to the Marines' equipment, though he points out that it is essential with good maintenance practices, and that the marines take care of their equipment in a different way than they usually do.
"The most important thing I have learned is how to use the terrain and the weather to our advantage."
The American Captain states that the training has made him a better Marine.
"If we can carry out our skills in this environment it can be translated to every other environment", Edgar says.
Edgar is very pleased with the training areas in Finnmark, and describes the Norwegian landscape as challenging.
"The combination of the mountains, the cold and the snow is something we usually do not have access to. It is fantastic. And there are some good live fire ranges here as well", says Edgar.
Edgar and his company it not used to train in populated areas.
"It has been a change for us to be driving down the road, tactically operating among civilian cars. Yesterday I had to ask someone to use his field to put my company headquarters there."
"It has been a unique and enjoyable experience. I have seen lots of smiles on people's faces, a lot of people wave and you can tell they are excited that we are here."
The Captain says that he already has lots of good memories from Norway since he came here in September. He has tasted reindeer meat, seen the northern lights and spent a night in a snow cave.
"My favorite memory was when I got to jump in a frozen lake, for training purposes", says Edgar.
Warm gloves and a mustache
The British Corporal Michael Owen from the Royal Marines is driving a tracked vehicle for the American marines, as they did not bring their own tracked vehicles for the exercise.
"The main difference between operating here and in the UK is the cold and the climate. When you get used to the snow and learn how to administrate yourself correctly in the climate, it is almost the same as how we usually operate."
What have you learned from the Norwegian forces so far?
"The training facilities are excellent, especially when it comes to training in an Arctic climate, this is exactly what we need in order to be good. To be good at this job, we need to come here and train", says Owen.
"Warm gloves are otherwise the best purchase I have made here. I have also learned how to grow a mustache," the Corporal cheerfully says, adding jokingly that his upper lips have never been warmer.