Illuminated by fluorescent lights aligning the ceiling, the hallways, covered in canvas and appears lengthy and abandoned. The caves, which are usually full, were particularly empty and outside the caves were hundreds of military vehicles that would normally park neatly in rows or column inside the mountainous fortress.
Logistics Marines deployed to the caves for the sole purpose of expeditiously extracting a lot of combat gear out of the cave, performing maintenance tasks, and restocking the equipment into storage spaces, with every second being accounted for.
The exercise is referred to as Strategic Mobility Exercise that provides Marines the opportunity to put their reflexes to the test in order to prepare them for potential combat or other crises that would require the manning of the vehicles and weapon with very short notice.
As the global environment changes and attention focused on Europe, engineers are considering the possibility of an expansion of the gear stockpile that is stored inside the caves- with double or triple the amount of gear in the works.
The storage and maintenance of the collection are controlled by the bilateral contract between the Marine Corp and Norway- an agreement dated prior to the Cold War. The storage area is a collection of six caves that are situated throughout Central Norway, in the Trondheim region. Three of the caves are filled with a variety of items including towed artillery and rolling stock. The other three caves are filled to capacity with ammunition, according to officials.
McPippin, the nickname for the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway among Marines, has been employed to secure the gear and equipment used for unit operations in Africa and Europe over the years, but it has also been used on a regular basis during war time.
“The caves were nearly emptied for [Operation] Iraqi Freedom,” according to a Marine prepositioning programs officer based at the Pentagon, Maj. Tom Stona. During Military.com’s May visit in Norway, officials just had ammunition from the caves sent to support the fight on the ground in the Middle East against the Islamic State, according to Stona, And in global disaster relief and humanitarian assistance missions, the Norway-based equipment has also been utilized.
A Norwegian team meticulously cares and keeps the gear maintained. The cave’ capacity is carefully inspected every few years in order to look for any significant changes.
In fact, the last time the caves underwent inspection was back in 2012, according to Stona. The closing of the Central War efforts in Afghanistan was also occurring during this time. A stockpile of gear was reorganized at the artillery collection from its’ more general purpose organization to an “MCPPN MAGTF,” he proclaims, employing the acronym for Marine air-ground task force.
As of now, the caves are holding enough gear, equipment, and artillery to supply a marine squad of 4,600 soldiers, colonel led, with all that they would need to conduct a mission besides desktop computers and an aircraft. Nonetheless, the collection could increase in size- significantly.
Our customers, [Marine Forces Europe] and [Marine Forces Command], their desire is to be able to aggregate a [Marine Expeditionary Brigade,] so MCPPN is going to seek to facilitate that with whatever equipment we can get over here to help stand an MEB up as quickly as possible,” Stona proclaimed.
The Marine Expeditionary Brigades are one of the most massive sized battle units the Corps provides equipment to and could amount to as many as 8,000 to 16,000 Marines, perhaps more than that. As of now, it is not exactly known what an MCPPN MEB entails in totality. “You ask two people what an MEB is, you get two different answers,” Stona declared.
Personnel charged with the responsibility of planning are in the process of analyzing the stockpile of gear that is expected to be concluded within the next year. The strategic mobility exercise permitted them the opportunity to analyze what was stored, and how it was stored. In a statement made by Stona, he asserted that officials are in the process of evaluating the possibility of changing the storage to include response-ready packaging, allowing the gear to be unloaded and delivered to a battle or crisis much more rapidly, even though challenges concerning proper maintenance could deem the concept impractical.
No matter how it works out, the Norwegian government holds the power of the final declaration concerning the size of the stockpile, its’ expansion, and its’ particular contents.
“We do a feasibility of support with the Norwegians, and tell them, ‘We’d like you to store this. Do you have the space?’ and they will give us an answer,” Stona confirms. “So that will happen as we continue to tailor.”
Those officers who side with the prepositioning program would not speculatively elaborate on the reasoning of the Corps for desiring to expand the equipment, gear and artillery collection in order to support a larger force. But with additional attention directed towards Europe while the Pentagon’s attempts to provide allies with assurance as they are deterring Russian aggression arises to the visible surface, a number of exercises employing the cave-stored stockpile has increased “exponentially,” according to Stona.
In January, for the first time, the branch of service deployed about 300 Marines, a part of a rotational force, to the region of Trondheim on a temporary basis in order for them to train alongside the Norwegian troops and exercise equipment.
It was said by Lyle Layher, the Marine Corps France, Europe and Africa prepositioning officer, that it is believed with all certainty that the storage of the combat stockpile will be heavily employed in the coming months.
“Now that we have a rotational force that comes here, and our relationship with the Norwegians is growing, I think that the opportunity to train on a more regular basis is going to happen,” he stated.
July 22, 2017