Allied naval expeditionary forces are working together in the cold harsh environment of northern Norway as part of the NATO Exercise Cold Response 2012 currently under way. Altogether more than 16,000 sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Marines representing 15 nations are participating in the 12-day exercise, which ends March 23.
Cold Response is a Norwegian-led winter exercise, which offers forces the opportunity to rehearse high-intensity operations in winter conditions within NATO with a United Nations mandate. Non-NATO nations are also participating. This is the fifth exercise in the Cold Response series.
According to Bulwark’s commanding officer, Capt. Alex Burton, RN, amphibious operations remain the most complex operation any nation’s military can undertake. “It is not simply park the ship and offload it. In war – and therefore in training – we have to take account of the environment, enemy forces in the air, sea, and on land, coordinate people into boats and naval helicopters, all to arrive on target, in the right order, at the right time, to achieve the battle-winning effect,” he said.
Amphibious landings were conducted with high seas and slushy snow, with temperatures averaging 22 below zero F.
The Royal Navy helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious was joined by the assault ship HMS Bulwark in the amphibious exercises. Illustrious carried eight helicopters – four Sea Kings and four Lynx – based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. In addition to delivering commandos to the snow-covered objective, Bulwark landed forces from the Netherlands and United States, equipment and vehicles, including the BV 206 articulated tracked vehicles (especially suited for Arctic operations), and the Royal Marines’ BEAST recovery vehicle.
According to Bulwark’s commanding officer, Capt. Alex Burton, RN, amphibious operations remain the most complex operation any nation’s military can undertake. “It is not simply park the ship and offload it. In war – and therefore in training – we have to take account of the environment, enemy forces in the air, sea, and on land, coordinate people into boats and naval helicopters, all to arrive on target, in the right order, at the right time, to achieve the battle-winning effect,” he said. “Few navies deliver this successfully and most aspirants look to the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Fleet Air Arm, with our war-proven capability, for guidance – on the sea in the air and on the land.
“My ship is phenomenally versatile and in this exercise, we act as the hub to bring together all the units that make up the modern-day complex battlefield,” said Burton. “Taking the fight ashore from the sea using helicopters and boats is not for the amateur but I have a ship’s company of complete professionals. For us, it’s what we do.”
U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James M. Lariviere, commanding general of 4th Marine Division, took the opportunity to go aboard Her Netherlands Majesty’s Ship Rotterdam.
“The visit to the Rotterdam was great,” said Lariviere. “I’m really excited that our Marines are getting on board and are taking an advantage of it.
“It was an opportunity to interact with our allies,” he said. “Many of them are veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anti-piracy task forces off the coast of Somalia. They all have a lot of experience working with the U.S. and our allies in various capacities. It was a great opportunity and a great conversation.”
Company K, 3rd Battalion, 24th Regiment, 4th Marine Division, embarked aboard Rotterdam for the exercise, representing the United States in the biennial event.
“For many of them this is their first time overseas,” Lariviere said. “It’s important because they are getting cold-weather training, something they don’t get to normally do, and they get to go on an allied ship and do a landing in conjunction with the Dutch Marines and British Marines. It provides an opportunity for these Marines to see something different and go back and talk to their fellow Marines and people in their hometown about the exciting things that are going on in the Marine Corps Reserve.”
The exercise was marred by a Norwegian Air Force C-130J that crashed on the northwest ridge of Mount Kebnekaise in northern Sweden, while en route from Evenes in northern Norway and Kiruna in northern Sweden. The cause of the crash is under investigation but poor weather was reported in the area of the accident. A memorial service attended by 750 people from six different nations, including King of Norway Harald V, paid respects to the fallen comrades.