Alaskan soldiers head to Norway for Arctic Shock drill

A file photo of U.S. soldiers assigned to the 11th Airborne Division in Arctic Alaska. (Pfc. Brandon Vasquez/U.S. Army)

They call themselves America’s Arctic Angels, the parachuting soldiers with the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division. Next week, the ultimate transpolar exercise kicks-off.

Amid the final days of Nordic Response, the northern leg of NATO’s large-scale Steadfast Defender exercise, soldiers from Alaska will head towards Bardufoss in northern Norway in the most untraditional way.

The drill is named Arctic Shock and consists of around 150 U.S. soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division and some 100 Norwegian soldiers. Airborne interoperability and Arctic capabilities will be trained, with a focus on how to bring U.S. soldiers into northern Norway as fast as possible without using airports.

With take off from Alaska, the soldiers will fly the short-cut directly over the North Pole and come in over Troms region in northern Norway from the north. Here they will jump out over the snowy landscape and demonstrate cold-weather warfare.

A file photo of a U.S. Arctic Angels jump practice in Alaska. (Airman 1st Class Julia Lebens)

Last month, the Norwegian government signed an expanded defense agreement with the United States allowing the Americans to build military infrastructure for own troops. In the north, the agreement includes Andøya, Bardufoss and Setermoen. The US has signed a similar agreement with Finland. Sweden, who became NATO’s 32nd member on March 7, are as well opening their doors for American cooperation, including in the north where two B-1 strategic bombers in February were depolyed to Kallax air base in Luleå.

There are currently several thousand Finnish and Swedish soldiers exercising in Finnmark on the coast to the Barents Sea. This weekend, a larger landing operation took place west of Alta, aimed at training NATO allies reinforcement of the strategic important region for Norway in case of a Russian military attack from the east.

As previously reported by the Barents Observer, Russia’s Northern Fleet has sailed out some of its largest warships for training in the Barents Sea simultaneously as the Norwegian-led NATO exercise takes place in Finnmark and Troms regions.

The Northern Fleet now has at least five surface vessels at sea; the two frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov, the anti-submarine ships Admiral Lavchenko and Vice-Admiral Kulakov, as well as the large landing ship Ivan Gren. There are likely a few Russian submarines active in the Barents Sea.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: U.S. report claims Trudeau told NATO Canada will never meet military spending target, CBC News

Denmark: Danish policy prioritizes low-conflict Arctic amidst Russian tensions, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandNATO exercises set to cause traffic jams in northern Finland, Eye on the Arctic

IcelandIceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Russian jamming disrupting GPS signals for Norwegian aviation almost daily, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaAs NATO forces move north for exercise, Northern Fleet sails out frigates, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish forces exercise in northern Norway as country officially joins NATO, Reuters

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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