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Marines in Norway for NATO war games encounter freezing rain, ‘heavenly’ hot dog sauce

Marines establish a bivouac location during Trident Juncture 18 on Alvund Beach, Oct. 29, 2018 after being delivered ashore from USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7). (Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale/U.S. Marine Corps)

A deployment to Norway to fight a mock enemy, followed by scarfing down Scandinavian hot dogs? Awesome. But did it have to happen right when Red Dead Redemption II came out?

This is a question young Marines are asking themselves this week.

More than 11,000 Marines are in Norway to participate in NATO’s massive Exercise Trident Juncture, where they are preparing to battle a fictional adversary who has invaded the country.

Some of the Marines said they are motivated to be part of the exercise in the scenic country, and especially to fight the battle in the next few days. They just wished it could have waited for the release of Red Dead Redemption II, a much-hyped, Wild West-themed video game.

“I wanted to preorder it, but I knew I was coming out here so I didn’t,” Cpl. Tyler Lohr, an ambulance driver, told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday. “And I have buddies messaging me about how awesome it is. A bunch of us want to play it when we get back.”

However, missing the game release is a small price to pay to be part of such a giant exercise, Lohr said.

During an amphibious landing on Monday, the Marines stormed the beach near the town of Alvund with Assault Amphibious Vehicles and LAV-25s, clearing the landing area for their hovercraft to ferry in more troops and equipment.

Trident Juncture is designed to practice deploying forward a large allied force in response to any foreign military intervention against a NATO member state. The exercise, which incorporates 50,000 personnel, 65 warships and 250 aircraft, is the largest NATO war game since the end of the Cold War. All 29 allied nations are participating, along with nonmembers Sweden and Finland.

“Being here and being part of this exercise is a huge deal for all of us Marines,” Lohr said. “I’m really excited for the battle.”

Since the landing, the Marines have been establishing positions along the fjords and mountains of western Norway, and preparing for the upcoming battle simulation.

In between the usual troop movements, the Marines are bonding with their Norwegian allies over food and cold-weather training tactics.

“The relationship with us and the Norwegians is like really close. It’s like we’re already friends,” Lohr said. “When we first got here, they already had the hot dog and burger stand set up for us. Their burgers are some of the best I’ve ever had.

“And the hot dogs … they’re like ours, but the hot dog sauce is what changes it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like heaven.”

Lohr and his fellow Marines said the sauce looks like ranch dressing, “but it’s so much better than that.” And once they first tasted it, the Marines started lining up every day to put it on everything from burgers to Meals, Ready to Eat.

Capt. Joseph Koffman, the camp commandant for the Rennebu-based Camp Leatherneck, which the Norwegians nicknamed “Camp Odin,” said the cold weather in Norway hasn’t been too much of an issue due to their extra warming layers and tips from Norwegian soldiers.

“The cold weather is different than Camp Lejeune, but we have cold weather gear, and have gone through cold weather training with the Marines and with the Norwegians, who have been helping us deal with the elements,” Koffman said. “Some of the Marines who are from the South, aren’t as used to it, but me, personally, I’m from Wisconsin, and this is my element. I love the weather here, and it’s a beautiful country to operate in.”

The Marines plan to begin the mock assault on the city of Oppdal on Thursday.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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