MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
As a critical and valued ally of the U.S., Norway is a key nation in the European Command area of operations that supports II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) with training opportunities, specifically for the intelligence community.
Just like welcoming a longtime friend, members of the Norwegian Military Intelligence Battalion were invited to meet unit leaders from intelligence commands within II MEF on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 14 and 15, 2021.
The intelligence staff welcomed the Norwegian leaders with a tour of facilities and workspaces showcasing their capabilities. II MEF hosts also briefed on intelligence integration, mission accomplishment as well as strengthening partnerships amongst the individual units.
Key elements of the visit were to instill trust, cooperation, and understanding between both intelligence communities, said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. John Forshtay, the G-2 Plans Officer for II MEF.
“Trust can’t be built from the flip of a switch or simply by sending an email, it is made by having conversations, orienting around a map, getting together at mealtime and breaking bread,” he said. "It was important for both organizations to have a clear and concise comprehension of each other so that we are able to operate through combined intelligence operations.”
A recurring topic that was spoken about was the opportunity to exchange service members between both military communities. Forshtay said that these exchanges are crucial to the growth of integration amongst the intelligence community.
“Both organizations are unique in terms of environment, geography, and intelligence information that can be shared,” he said. “If we don’t get out and integrate with our Nordic friends, it will be a missed moment to observe their contribution and how they illuminate the operational environment for Marines of II MEF.”
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Bradley Bean, assistant chief of staff for the intelligence branch of II MEF, was a key speaker during the visit and said it had been a positive time for everyone.
“The collaboration and partnership will only improve from here,” Bean said. “In my experience, we are never going to fight alone, so the more we can work as a coalition the better the MEF will be from it.”
Norwegian military leaders were enthusiastic to return to II MEF to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Norway.
One of the guests was Norwegian Lt. Col. Per Espen Strande, commanding officer of the Norwegian Military Intelligence Battalion (MI Bn.), Norwegian Army, who hasn’t visited MCB Camp Lejeune since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“I learn a lot from the units here and it helps me see how I am going to be able to integrate with them so they are prepared to support us in Norway,” he said. “Some of the highlights from today's visit included getting an update on how the units here are evolving, what problems they are overcoming and how I can provide assistance to better integrate with intelligence units.”
Strande said he hopes to have left II MEF with a broader understanding of what the Norwegian Military Intelligence Battalion is and how they can support each other.
“On the intelligence side we have a great cooperation from many years of working alongside each other and are constantly getting better and better,” said Strande. “We’re there for whenever they call and need something, no problem is too small, no problem is too big and I don’t mind lending support to our American friends.”