14 February 2020
BERKSHIRE ARMY CADET FORCE NORWAY EXCHANGE 2020
FRIDAY 14th TO SUNDAY 23rd FEBRUARY 2020
A Cadets Account of the Visit for ACFA
Friday 14th Feb 2020
A party of 41 cadets, 10 CFAV and our TSA left Brock Barracks in Reading for South Terminal Gatwick to fly with Norwegian Air to Oslo to the exercise training base in Heistadmoen near Kongsberg, Norway. We were split into groups of 4-5 with one instructor to go through check-in and passport control. We were supplied with money at the airport for lunch. When we landed in Oslo, we all collected our bags and were met at the airport by some Norwegian officers and then a 90-minute coach journey to the training camp. When we arrived, we had a welcome presentation and supper, split into Platoons and Section, NAFFI and then bed.
Saturday 15th Feb 2020
The daily in camp routine was; reveille 0600hrs, continental cold breakfast 0645 to 0730hrs, 0800hrs parade, 0805 to 1100hrs we collected our Norwegian uniform and kit from the stores, 1100 to 1200hrs lunch, 1215 to 1530hrs lectures on winter conditions, cold injuries and clothing, 1600 to 1700hrs was evening meal, 1715 to 2100hrs SAA on A-G3 cadet weapon, followed by free time and NAFFI then lights out at 2300hrs.
Sunday 16th Feb 2020
The weapon that we were lucky enough to learn on our trip to the Norwegian Home Guard Youth HV02 was the A-G3 cadet modified weapon, 7.62 x 51mm NATO issue. This was a select fire battle rifle developed in the 1900’s by the German Armament and manufactured by Heckler and Koch in collaboration with the Spanish. We spent two days learning the skills and drills on this weapon with a WHT at the end. In a way it was like a journey, all the way from disassembling it to doing mock shooting in the classroom.
A few keys things that we covered in the weapons training was the five key rules which are a key part in handling the weapon before actually firing it. Furthermore, during the weapons training we tried to perfect our positions when firing the weapon, ensuring our body position and sight alignment was correct.
Finally, the day came when we would fire the weapon on the range. This was ecstatic as the thrill and the buzz of the recoil of the weapon was exhilarating. Also, the weather was great, it was raining and icy which set an almost perfect mood and atmosphere for the first-time experience with this weapon.
Monday 17th Feb 2020
During the exchange trip to Norway, we participated in a winter survival course which included learning how to cross-country ski ad learning how to operate the primus stove. The cross-country skiing aspect of the course was especially enlightening due to the fact that it was a rewarding but challenging way of getting from A to B. Trying to go downhill is especially difficult because you have to remember to bend your knees and lean forward otherwise you will fall. In addition to this to improve on our abilities to the cross-country ski we also had a platoon competition to see who was the fastest on skis. This was especially enjoyable because it really helped improve on the ability to control the skis at high speed.
As well as that we also were trained on how to use a primus stove which is the Norwegian Home Guard youth main source of heat in their tents and cooking when on exercise. It was vital that we were trained on this because if improperly used it could produce CO2 leading to a dangerous situation in the tent.
Tuesday 18th Feb 2020
Day one of the exercise on the training area. We packed our kit bags and our pulks, but unfortunately due to the lack of snow and the fact that it was 5°C, when in previous years it has been -20°C, we were unable to use our newly found cross-country skiing skills. So, we loaded our pulks onto the army lorries and walked out onto the training area. It was very icy but we made good time, managing to pitch our tents and get the stoves running before dark. We set up our primus stove watch rotas and settled in for the night.
Wednesday 19th Feb 2020
On Wednesday we took part in section/team round robin completion in the form of command tasks. It consisted of First Aid, Fire building, Shooting, Making a stretcher, Performing arts and other activities to help develop our personal and team work skills.
The first post was stopping a major arterial bleed using a bandage and a foreign object. This tested our listening skills. Building fires developed our survival skills and helped us see different objects that could be used to help us. All the tasks were made to get the whole team involved either cheering each other on or working closely together.
The morning was cold and icy and no one stood a chance of not slipping over. We were using Norwegian equipment such as their axes and knives. I believe cutting down a tree was one of my favourite moments as I could never see myself doing this and it was a lot of fun.
The end of the night we made a bonfire, this was a great experience. All the different teams put on a little performance for the others. All of them were hilarious making jokes about the week on camp.
Over all the day was one of the best over the whole camp and probably one of the best days on any camp as it was so engaging learning different things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, even if I struggled walking on the ice.
Thursday 20th Feb 2020
We broke camp in the morning, packing up all the equipment and putting it on the pulks and in our kit bags. We made breakfast and then walked the 90-minutes back into the equipment hangers on the outskirts of Heistadmoen training camp. We ate lunch in the hanger while kit was dried and weapons were cleaned, ready for an early afternoon walk into the training camp, wash up and evening meal. Then some down time ready for the next day.
Friday 21st Feb 2020
On our penultimate day in Norway we went downhill skiing in the local town Kongsberg. For this we were in our field uniform and white waterproofs. The Norwegian home guard youth hired skis, boots, poles and helmets and issued us with lift passes and tuition from qualified Norwegian ski instructors.
We were given lessons on the nursery slopes for a couple of hours, which is when the cadets that had already skied before and showed good control were allowed on the green and blue slopes with the Norwegian Home Guard Youth and British instructors. The real novices stayed on the nursery slope all day with the British instructors taking turns in looking after them.
I had skied before for a week or so and was really looking forward to getting back to it. After lessons I showed good competence and was allowed on the green slope to go with a group of Norwegian and British cadets with a Norwegian and British officer. This was very exciting. Going down the green slope was really exhilarating but quite challenging too so I didn’t try any other slopes that were harder. After our packed meals were delivered and we ate them and then went back on the green slope a few more times until we had to leave. Many of the beginner skiers had done really well by the end of the day and could get down the nursery slope quite well. We had a great day on the slopes and were all exhausted.
After we got back to camp, we sorted out our Norwegian kit and uniform to make sure it all got back to the Norwegian stores. We were allowed to keep our issued thermal underwear and t-shirt which was a nice memento. We had free time to get ready for the end of course banquet that the Norwegians had laid on for us, with a presentation of our skill at arms certificate and attendance certificate and then a disco.
Saturday 22nd Feb 2020
On Saturday we travelled into Kongsberg where we discovered the interesting history of the local silver mining in this Norwegian town. At first, we were provided with the opportunity of going into the mine and learning about the type of silver that was extracted and how the various tunnels were dug into.
We travelled in the carts that carried the miners and the silver far into the mine. We had to wear hearing protection for this journey which took about 10 minutes, in the pitch black to get to the heart of the mine.
The mine was something that not many of us had experienced before and so it proved to be an interesting activity which provided us with an insight into the history of mining in Norway.
After this visit we travelled back into the town to visit the local museum where the Norwegians had arranged an English-speaking guide to take us round the museum and we learned more about the Kings mine and were able to look at more types of silver that had been previously extracted. We were shown how miners had to work in tight conditions and by candle light in the 1600’s and later with lamps in the 1800’s.
The museum also had weapons as Kongsberg was historical in making weapons for Norwegian army and also a historical coin collection. Much to our delight we were then given permission to walk around the town of Kongsberg and take a look at the various shops with many of us stopping off at the ice cream and drinks shop despite the cold weather.
The day proved to be a nice break from training in camp and really developed our insight into the history of the Kings silver mines, the second largest mine in Norway. It was a great way to end the trip and was an enjoyable day for both the British and Norwegian cadets.
When we returned to camp, we reluctantly had to say our goodbyes to the Norwegian cadets who were leaving later that evening. After many hugs and a few tears, the Norwegian cadets left the camp to go back home to Oslo and we prepared for our flight home the next day.
Sunday 23rd Feb 2020
On Sunday we travelled back home to the UK. We had a fairly leisurely morning, although breakfast and reveille were still at 0600 and 0630. We had cases and hand luggage checked and weighed by the instructors with a few of us needing to redistribute as our cases exceeded 20kg. We left camp at 0930hrs, waving goodbye to the Norwegian officers that had stayed behind to look after us. We arrived at Oslo airport in good time. We were in the same groups as we were on the way to Norway and were again given money for lunch. There were major issues at security into the flight lounge and the flight was late taking off due to our party taking over an hour to get through security. We arrived back in Reading at about 1700, with all of our families waiting to collect us. There were lots of hugs as the friends that we had made across the county were going back home to different locations.
This has been an experience of a lifetime, that money really can’t buy and each and every one of the cadets that were on this trip really appreciated the efforts of the adults involved and the extra money that was donated to help us achieve this experience with the cadets.