A US amphibious combat group deploys to the high north amid high tensions

The USS Kearsage made port a call in Tromsø on Monday.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge is one of the largest navy vessels ever to make a port call inside the Arctic Circle in Europe. (U.S. Sixth Fleet via The Independent Barents Observer)

About 800 soldiers from the fast-responding U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit have arrived in Tromsø, making ready for joint winter training with Norwegian troops.

The North Atlantic with Iceland and northern Norway are critical communication links between North America and Europe in times of war. This winter, one NATO exercise has followed the other.

The Norwegian-led Cold Response was followed by the Iceland-hosted, U.S. Sixth Feet-led Northern Viking. Now, the largest warship that participated outside Keflavik last week sails into the waters of northern Norway with the U.S. 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, forces consisting of amphibious vessels, aircraft, helicopters, multi-role attack ships, logistics and a command unit.

Training is set to kick off next week.

“This is a very important allied unit from the U.S. Marine Corps,” says Lt. Gen. Yngve Odlo, head of the Norwegian Operations Headquarters.

In case of war, Norway depends on reinforcement from allied forces.

“Receiving and joint training with allied forces is very important and contributes to high operational readiness. Norway, and especially parts of Nordland and Troms regions, are favorable training areas for several of our allied forces,” Odlo notes.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsage made a port call to Tromsø on Monday. The dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall and the destroyer USS Gravely are also taking part.

With soldiers from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit ready for fast reaction winter operations includes a tiltrotor squadron, the ground combat element, a landing team, aviation combat forces, and a logistic element.

The training will last until early summer, according to the Armed Forces.