Norwegian, U.S. Army engineers build relationships in Estonia

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Under a cloudless sky and cool Estonian breeze, NATO allies from the United States and Norway worked together to improve a demolition range at the Central Training Area, Tapa, in Estonia.

"My soldiers [along with the Norwegians] are building up three walls that will include a window, wall and door breaching site in order to improve the training capabilities of the Estonian base here at Tapa," Capt. Andrew Twardowski, commander of 500th Engineer Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, based out of Grafenwoehr, Germany.

In a buzz of organized chaos, soldiers on the ground mixed batches of fresh mortar, others on ladders worked to build the braces for the walls, while others applied the mortar to cinder blocks to form the walls.

"Back in Germany, we don’t get a lot of time to build and train [like this]," Twardowski said.

Adding, "Being out here is a great opportunity for my soldiers to get hands-on training and actually use the soldier skills that are required of their job."

For soldiers with the Norwegian Army High Readiness Force (HRF), it is also an opportunity to learn and grow with their allies.

"It’s something special," said enlisted Daniel Karlsev, of Narvik, Norway, a plumber with the Theater Enabling Force of the Norwegian Army HRF. "I haven’t worked with U.S. soldiers like this before so for me, it’s a new experience."

The efforts in Estonia are a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, an ongoing series of training operations and events designed to build relationships, trust, and interoperability between the United States and its NATO allies throughout the Baltic region.

"It’s good for us to work together with the Americans and see how they do things," Karlsev said.

Adding, "By getting to know each other better, it’s easier to work together in bigger exercises."

"Working with the Norwegians has been a pleasure," Twardowski said.

Adding, "We’ve had a partnership with this unit for about a year now.

"They come train with us in Grafenwoehr and we’ve sent soldiers up to train with them in the past. These guys are great workers and really know their trade."

Second Lt. Adrian Holthes, platoon leader with the Theater Enabling Force, hoped for the opportunity to bring more of his troops to train in Estonia.

"It would be nice to bring them out for about a month and work with other nations, learn from one another and gain experience so that in the future, we can work in other places."

In the long run, engineers with the U.S. and Norwegian armies in Estonia hope to build a "place where NATO allies along with other nations can come and train, both to prove their partnerships and as a deterrence against a potential adversary," Twardowski said.