US general says troops will stay off the beer for Norway exercise

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A US Marines general has said his troops will not be indulging in the alcoholic delights of a Norwegian town after they drank Iceland’s capital dry of beer.

Some 7,000 US sailors and marines stopped in Reykjavik as they made their way towards Norway for the start of exercise Trident Juncture last month.

Major General Dave Furness, the commanding general of the US Marine Corps 2nd Marines Division, said the reaction to their presence in Norway has so far been “very positive”.

Nato Exercise Trident Juncture in Norway
Major General Dave Furness (Georgina Stubbs/PA)

“I don’t think we are going to have the opportunity to partake in the local pleasures here for alcohol,” he told the Press Association when asked if there would be a repeat situation.

He was speaking as the US Marines prepared to stage a mock seizure of the town of Oppdal in central Norway, as part of Nato’s biggest war games since the end of the Cold War.

Exercise Trident Juncture involves more than 50,000 troops, 65 ships, 10,000 vehicles and 250 aircraft from all 29 member states of the alliance, including the UK, plus Finland and Sweden.

On Thursday, in an area on the outskirts of Oppdal, four M1 Abrams tanks from the US Marine Corps 2nd Tank Division gathered in the car park of a motel complex.

Flanked by snow-capped mountains and sweeping pine forests, they were joined by a Light Armoured Reconnaissance company before engaging in battle with the Spanish and Italians.

Tank platoon commander first lieutenant Luis Penichet, 25, from New York said Trident Juncture as a whole is “extremely useful” for him and his troops as they develop their skills.

Speaking ahead of the attack, he said: “This is the first time we have had an opportunity to go tank-on-tank… they will be using the Leopard 2 tank which is similar to ours but not as good.”

He said the seizure of the airfield before they move on to trying to take control of the town is vital because of the flow of logistics, forces and supplies that it offers and enables.

And as they took control of the airfield their actions sent the opposing southern forces of Spain and Italy into retreat, and in the coming days will advance further south.

The exercise will eventually see the Americans, which are part of the northern force, pushed back and Oppdal liberated, with more military manoeuvre due in the town in the coming days.

Oppdal mayor for the past three years, Kirsti Welander, said she was excited about the mock capture, with many of her fellow 7,000 residents curious and interested by the action.

“I have not heard one person who is critical,” she told the Press Association.

Oppdal Police Chief Finn Skarsmoen said over the coming days the main concern is how the military activity will affect civilian life.

He said that the narrow roads coupled with some vehicles which are almost four metres wide, will create issues with the traffic in Oppdal and the surrounding area.

“We are most concerned about if there will be any bad accidents that will involve both civilians and soldiers… but we are prepared for it,” he added.

Beginning last week, Trident Juncture is taking place in Norway, a country which shares a border with Russia, and comes amid rising tensions between the Kremlin and the alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of Nato, said it is a “defensive exercise”, taking place in central Norway, the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea, and is “not directed against any country”.

But Russia, which thinks Nato is acting provocatively, recently revealed its navy plans to test missiles between November 1-3 in the international waters off western Norway.

Mother-of-four and Oppdal resident for the past 13 years, Randi Grete Kalseth-Iversen, said they are not too worried about Russia and “still sleep at night”.

“We know they are around the corner and are just flexing their muscles,” she said.

“We feel more secure because of Nato, because now we see if something happens Nato will rush in and help us.”

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