Fighting Through the Frost: Nordic Response 24

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Justin Carnahan
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

BARDUFOSS, Norway — Aviano Air Base’s 57th Rescue Squadron, training together with Swedish air force rangers, just finished the two-week arctic operation exercise, Nordic Response 24, throughout the mountains of northern Norway, March 1-15, 2024.

The exercise took place during a pivotal moment in European security history as Sweden became the 32nd NATO member on March 7th after over 200 years of non-alignment. This collaboration not only strengthens the interoperability and partnership between the 31st Fighter Wing and Sweden but also underscores the broader cohesion within the Alliance.

This exercise, held biennially in Northern Norway, brings together over 20,000 personnel from 13 allied nations, highlighting the depth and breadth of collaboration among participating countries. The diverse composition of nations, including the USA, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, underscores the inclusive and unified approach to addressing common security challenges.

During Nordic Response 24, the 57th RQS focused on sharpening their arctic operation skills with the help of the Swedish air force rangers. The teams combined forces to practice arctic traversal techniques such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and a combination of the two known as “skijoring.” Participants also practiced operational insertions using various helicopters including Swedish NH90s, British EH101 Merlins and British HC-3 Wildcats. Finally, they simulated coordinated air support operations using British AH1 Apache helicopters and Swedish F-35 Lightning IIs.

“The Swedish rangers have a certain background, and that skillset is something that we don’t normally practice,” said Master Sgt. Justin Covieo, 57th RQS survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist. “Being able to find where our guys can learn that skillset from them has been phenomenal.”

While training on a myriad of combat search and rescue skills, the teams were also forming bonds with their sister squadrons.

 “All of these guys are phenomenal operators that, at a moment's notice, I would not hesitate that we could join them on their team or that they would take care of one of our guys if anything bad happened,” said Covieo.

“We are on a first-name basis, from commander down to individual PJs and rangers,” added Master Sgt. Antonsson, Swedish air force ranger. “It’s almost frictionless working together now.”

After exchanging skillsets and developing friendships, everyone gathered together to celebrate and commemorate the historic moment Sweden officially joined NATO.

“We had a big party that night and it was super special to me,” Covieo said.  “And I know it’s something special that is going to stay with the guys forever.”

Through joint training and shared resources, Nordic Response 24 not only enhances the preparedness and readiness of participating forces but also fosters a strong sense of camaraderie and mutual support within the NATO framework. This exercise serves as a clear demonstration of the Alliance's collective strength and solidarity, ensuring a robust and effective response to potential threats and crises in the region and beyond.

“It's been a good exercise,” Antonsson added. “And we're looking forward for many more to come."