Members with the 352nd Special Operations Wing recently returned home after participating in a training exercise, Fluid Needle, near Rygge and Banak Air Station, Norway, from Aug. 24 – 28.
The overall intent for the exercise revolved around completing two complex personnel recovery scenarios. One led by the The Royal Norwegian Air Force and one led by the U.S. with partner forces integrated into both scenarios. This exercise continues a long line of tradition of training between the two countries, ever building to improve relations and capabilities.
“We have worked with the 352 SOW before,” said Norway’s Lt. Col. Morton Christiansen, Norwegian Special Operations Command air operations. “All the way back to the 90’s when we were jumping out of the MCs [MC-130J Commando II]. It’s been a long relationship, but this is the first time we have everyone together here at this base [Rygge] with the Ospreys and the MCs and this type of tight integration.”
The cohabitation allows the U.S. and Norway to learn from each other and build upon existing skill sets along with enhancing shared defense of the high-north from potential adversaries.
“We develop the trust and interoperability while we train so that when we meet in operations like we have done in Afghanistan, we know who we’re working with, how they plan and execute the mission,” Christiansen said. “We build the trust during peace-time training and we increase the trust when we actually do operations in a crisis or war.”
Norway is a prominent partner to the United States and has geographical significance to safety and security in the region.
“Norway was chosen because we wanted to build upon the lessons learned from Cold Response,” said Capt. Joshua Hagwood, Exercise Fluid Needle mission commander. “It’s pretty much a challenging environment and it gives opportunities to not only to develop with our partner nation, but also to further lay down the groundwork for the special operation wing’s future high-north persistent presence.”
Additionally, training and mission execution in Sweden demonstrates the commitment and implementation of the Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett’s Arctic Strategy, released July 2020.
“The Arctic is among the world’s most strategically significant regions – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” Secretary Barrett said in the release.
Putting words into action, Secretary Barrett flew out to Rygge. Once there, she met with 352 SOW senior leaders and Airmen on the value of the U.S. and Norway partnership and the high-north region.
Witnessing the combined training first hand, Secretary Barrett saw fast rope training from a CV-22B Osprey between 321st Special Tactics Squadron Airmen and Norwegian Forsvarets Spesialkommando, Norway special forces, often referred to as FSK. This was the first time that FSK performed fast roping from a CV-22B.
“Besides the obvious exposure-to-the-elements factor of Norway, The U.S. and Norway have a great partnership with the same regional objectives,” Hagwood said. “We’re both aligned to ensure our mutual goals are met.”
The exercise concluded with Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System drops with the MC-130J and aircrew, personnel recovery with the CV-22B and aircrew and special tactics Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists, and aerial refueling between MC-130s and CV-22s.
“There are a lot of lessons learned, but we accomplished what we set out to do,” Hagwood said. “Exercise Fluid Needle clearly demonstrated the close ties between the U.S. and Norway and our combined effort to counter the threats of potential adversaries.”