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Building Friendship and Strong Structures in Norway

Rygge Airbase, Norway -- This past summer, 36 members of the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron traveled to Norway for a joint NATO exercise called "Impeccable Glove 2010."

The annual exercise pairing Air National Guard units with the Norwegian Royal Air Force took place August 8-21 at Rygge Airbase, a Royal Norwegian Air Force installation in southeastern Norway, about 50 miles South of Oslo. According to Maj. Torre BjØrnetrØ, the exercise coordinator, the first week's focus would be five construction projects planned by cadets from the Royal Military Academy (the Norwegian equivalent of The U.S. Military Academy at West Point).

The engineers tackled a list including erection of a garage to house a mobile command center; building a boat house to protect a fire department's water rescue vessel; digging a trench to run power and communications to that boathouse; finishing a patio improvement project to fix water drainage problems; and finally, building a shelter to protect bicycles from the weather.

"We want to give the cadets an opportunity to see their design projects through from conception to completion," said Tormod Heiaas, a civilian engineer who was the cadet's project coordinator. He added, "They need to realize that in reality most projects don't go as planned." Heiaas continued, "They need to learn how to negotiate, communicate, and fix problems that always crop up at a project site." The idea, according to Heiaas, is to give the cadets hands-on experience where the stakes are not as high as they might be, should they later deploy as part of a NATO-led coalition once they graduate.

The experience was truly a two-way street. For example, Americans are not as familiar with the metric system, the standard measuring unit in Norway. Staff Sgt. Mitch Mengus from the 145th remarked, "It sort of slowed us down at first, but once we got used to using metric we discovered that it was very precise." That seemed to be the consensus of all.

"At my site, we soon discovered that the cement foundation, which was poured last year, was not level," said Master Sgt. James Stevenson who was supervising the boathouse project for the 145th CES. "We started having to make adjustments to most of the measurements called for on the plans just to be sure the roof top would be true." As the week progressed, one could see the mutual respect building between the cadets and our civil engineers as they continued to find solutions. Master Sgt. Walter Berry expressed, "We found these Norwegian cadets to be some of the hardest working people we've ever met. They were cordial yet definitely wanted the job done right."

In the end, each project was completed. More importantly, each brought a sense of pride and accomplishment. Moreover, the friendships fostered from both hard work and play, served to validate that the exercise met and exceeded all of its stated goals. Indeed, those who had the opportunity to participate will always cherish the experience.