About 200 U.S. Marines qualified for a rare Navy Arctic Service Ribbon this week after training in the first deployment to Norway since World War II.
In Norway on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commander of Marine Corps Forces Command, congratulated the Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., on earning the rare decoration, after their somewhat “Cold War-era” six-month deployment--this is the first time foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed in Norway since the 1940s.
“There’s a lot of ribbons you don’t have to do s— to get; this isn’t one of them,” Wissler said. “As a Marine Corps, we’ve been very used to operating in sort of jungle and desert environments, but we’re not as good at operating in Arctic environments as we need to be.”
According to Military.com, Marines who were part of the training said they learned how to dry sweat-dampened clothes using their own body heat, slaughter reindeer and drink their blood and practice melting and boiling snow to prepare freeze-dried food.
“This company of Marines, and those Marines that accompanied you in your training, are capable of engaging and locating, closing with and destroying by fire and maneuver any enemy that we would encounter in an Arctic environment,” Wissler said. “So my heartiest congratulations to you.”
U.S. officials downplayed any link between the operation and NATO’s concerns over Russia, but the deployment came at the same time as thousands of troops were sent to Poland to strengthen Eastern European allies concerned over Russia’s aggression.
A spokesman for the Norwegian Home Guards who hosted the Marines told Reuters that U.S. troops would learn about “winter warfare” and that it “has nothing to do with Russia or the current situation.”
The deployment was part of a bilateral agreement between Oslo and Washington.