Minnesota meets Norway
WORTHINGTON -- Two members of Luverne-based Battery A, 1st Battalion of the 125th Field Artillery will travel to Norway in mid-February to take part in a two-week training program. Pfc. Travis Thiner of Worthington and Pvt. Daniel Gronewold, a Wo...
WORTHINGTON -- Two members of Luverne-based Battery A, 1st Battalion of the 125th Field Artillery will travel to Norway in mid-February to take part in a two-week training program. Pfc. Travis Thiner of Worthington and Pvt. Daniel Gronewold, a Worthington native now living in Sioux Falls, S.D., were among 100 Minnesota National Guard soldiers selected to take part in the 34th annual Norwegian Exchange program.
The program began in 1973 as a way to strengthen ties between Minnesota's National Guard and Norway.
"We started off because there's a strong tie between the people of Minnesota and the Norwegians because of the heritage," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Toole of the Camp Ripley Public Affairs office. He is among the 100 Guardsmen taking part in the exchange.
While in Norway, the troops will train with the Norwegian military at the Norwegian Homeguard Training Center at Camp Vaernes, which was the largest German Air Force base during World War II. In addition, they will visit the Haltdalen Training Center, located in the mountains of Norway.
"A lot of the training changes from year to year, and there's certain aspects of it that they don't share with the individuals," Toole said.
Minnesota National Guard selects those who take part in the training program based on a first-come, first-served basis, though Toole said there is great competition for a spot in the exchange.
"It's definitely an honor," he said. "There are thousands of Minnesota Army and Air National Guard troops, and we only select 100."
Gronewold, a 2000 graduate of Worthington High School, completed his basic training last August. Now living in Sioux Falls and working for U-Haul, he is excited to have the opportunity to train in Norway.
"Norway is kind of my native homeland -- I'm a little bit German and a little bit Norwegian," Gronewold said. While in Norway, the soldiers will stay with host families, and Gronewold is hoping to pick up some of the language and culture during his visit.
As for the training, Gronewold said he was told they will be snow skiing and building a snow cave, among other exercises.
"I've never skied in my life," he added.
Gronewold said he is enjoying his time with the Minnesota National Guard and that he would like to put in 20 years with the military branch. After completing a year and a half of higher education at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, he plans to begin classes again this fall at Southeast Technical College in Sioux Falls.