On Sunday, February 17, 2013, the NACC-UMW was happy to co-host, along with the Royal Norwegian Honorary Consulate General, the Sons of Norway, Borton Volvo, and Main Sponsor Recon Robotics, the 40th anniversary banquet for the troop exchange between the Minnesota National Guard and the Norwegian Home Guard.
Held at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, the banquet featured a number of dignitaries from both the United States and Norway, including Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Christian Strommen, Governor Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Norwegian Chief of Defence Gen. Harald Sunde, Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund of the Norwegian Home Guard, and Maj. Gen. Richard Nash of the Minnesota National Guard. Music for the nearly 500 invited guests was provided by the 34th Infantry Division Band and the Norwegian Glee Club.
Amazingly enough, this reciprocal troop exchange was all started 40 years ago with a simple hand shake between two generals; one American and one Norwegian who both appreciated what benefits two closely allied nations and partners could achieve by learning from and about each other, and by training together in adverse conditions. This relationship has turned into the longest continuous troop exchange in the world where every year, troops from the Norwegian Home Guard come to Minnesota to train at Camp Ripley and troops from the Minnesota National Guard go to Camp Varnes outside of Trondheim to train with their Norwegian counterparts.
An interesting aside is that the current commanding general of the Norwegian Home guard, Maj. Gen. Kristin Lund was one of the participants in the very first exchange at Camp Rippley. Photo of Maj. Gen. Lund and Adj. Gen. of the MN. National Guard, Maj. Gen. Richard Nash at Camp Rippley.
For the first exchange, and for the following 28, one couple played a key role in establishing this exchange as more than mere training in the snow. Because there were no sponsors in the early days, friend of the exchange, Jim and Mary Johnson of Edina, MN would host 120 soldiers and officers at their home, with Jim telling stories and Mary making sure everyone was fed. As the years went on, Jim and Mary continued to open their house to thousands of Norwegian soldiers, making hundreds of friends in the process.