Norwegians were set to have some of their first close encounters with major military convoys this weekend, after a German military cargo ship tied up in Fredikstad Friday morning. It was offloading around 250 military vehicles and 70 containers, all bound for military installations at Gardermoen (Sessvollmoen) and Rena as part of the major NATO military exercise called Trident Juncture.
Norway’s own defense department felt compelled to post a video on its website, alerting Norwegians once again to the fact that local roads and highways may be clogged at times this fall with the NATO convoys. They can consist of up to 12 military vehicles, often with police- or special military escorts.
Defense officials are reminding motorists that they’re not allowed to merge into the convoys or disrupt them in any way. All will be clearly marked, and those with extra-wide vehicles hauling military equipment will have additional signage and escorts front and back.
Most of the convoys will roll at posted speed limits, but none will drive faster than 80kph and some of the heavier military vehicles and tanks will be slower. Motorists are also warned against trying to pass convoys on Norway’s two-lane highways.
The first loads of NATO equipment from all over Europe, the US and Canada started arriving a few weeks ago but now the pace is picking up in advance of the actual Trident Juncture exercises that begin with training on October 25, followed by a commando exercise from November 14.
Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen and Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara were both on hand when the Ark Germania berthed at the Borg Havn in Fredrikstad early Friday morning. So were officials from Norway’s Home Guard (Heimevernet), police, the harbour authority and the state highway department (Statens Vegvesen). The NATO exercise involves what the defense department describes as “an enormous logistical operation,” to get all the equipment in place, along with more than 40,000 soldiers from all 29 NATO countries plus Sweden and Finland.
Bakke-Jensen stressed that the NATO exercise is an important part of building up safety and security for Norway and other NATO members. “Our ability to efficiently receive allied reinforcements and operate together is extremely important,” Bakke-Jensen said. He and Wara acknowledged that the NATO exercise will affect large portions of Norwegians in the weeks ahead but also allow training for both civilian and military defense.
The vehicles and containers that arrived in Fredrikstad was being divided into as many as 16 convoys (called kolonner in Norwegian, and marked as such) and they were hitting the road immediately. That meant extra traffic heading into the weekend, not least when one of the lengthy tunnels on the E6 highway between Fredrikstad and Oslo is partially closed because of needed repairs.
The chief of the US’ NATO troops is already in Norway. General Curtis Scaparrotti met on Thursday with Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who’s expected to be greeting more military brass in full uniform over the next few weeks.