Norwegian, US partnership celebrated at Camp Ripley

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. -- A strong bond between Norway and the United States has long been in the making, and some of it is thanks to a partnership at Camp Ripley.

Christopher Andersen with the Norwegian Home Guard trains on a Dismounted Soldier Training System simulator at Camp Ripley, Minn., on Wednesday. This is the 42nd annual training exchange with the Norwegian Home Guard and Camp Ripley. (Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls Gallery and Video)

CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - A strong bond between Norway and the United States has long been in the making, and some of it is thanks to a partnership at Camp Ripley.
For more than 40 years the annual American-Norwegian Reciprocal Troop Exchange has been helping to boost that bond at the Minnesota-based camp near Brainerd and Little Falls.
This year marked another milestone for the two nations as they celebrated the 70th anniversary for Operation RYPE, a World War II operation the two countries partnered in.
To mark the events, about 100 Norwegian soldiers in Minnesota for the exchange and a slew of American soldiers gathered  at Camp Ripley this week.
“The most important contribution of (Operation) RYPE was the political relationship between the U.S. and Norway. The fact that U.S. soldiers died on Norwegian soil for Norwegian freedom, it’s an important factor that further cemented the relationship (between the two countries),” said Lt. Col. Ingvar Seland of the Norwegian Home Guard.
Seland gave a history of Operation RYPE and just how vital it was in ending the war in a talk at Camp Ripley.
It all started near the end of World War II, he said.
For the special operation, most of the American soldiers volunteered from the 99th Infantry Battalion. The “99th” was the only active-duty group to be organized and activated at Camp Ripley. Many members of the “99th” were from Minnesota and had Norwegian heritage, along with Norwegian language skills and knowledge of the geography of the country.
Those volunteering for the mission weren’t told much about it. But it was of “high strategic importance,” Seland said.
The Office of Strategic Services, which planned the operation in Norway, is now known as the Central Intelligence Agency.
In spring 1945, the group of Norwegian and American special operations soldiers parachuted into the high mountains of Norway.
The commando team, led by Maj. William Colby, attacked and destroyed key bridge and rail lines in central Norway, and continued operating there until the Germans surrendered in May 1945.
The key goal of the operation was to destroy railroad lines, which was the only way to transport troops at the time, since travel by air and water was considered too dangerous.
That would stop the Germans from sending 400,000 more soldiers to fight the Allies in northern Europe.
“If Germany was able to move (troops) during the final defense, it could have prolonged the war,” Seland said.
Today, though, the troop exchange serves as a further way to expand on the relationship between the two countries, said Col. Scott St. Sauver, post commander of Camp Ripley.
The exchange is a partnership where soldiers from both nations learn about each other’s culture and military tactics, techniques and procedure, by training on each other’s bases.
Even more important is the trust formed between the two, St. Sauver said.
Seland added, “The friendship between our two nations is as important as ever.”
He continued, “The U.S. is our most important ally.”

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