US sends 100 sailors, Marines to Norwegian Arctic for role in giant NATO exercise

More than 100 U.S. sailors and Marines are in the high north of Norway to establish a maritime command as part of NATO’s largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War, according to the Navy.

U.S. 2nd Fleet and Expeditionary Strike Group 2 personnel left Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., on Feb. 7 to form a unitin Bodo to command and support maritime forces during Steadfast Defender, a Navy statement Tuesday said.

The exercise kicked off last month with the departure of the dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall from Norfolk, Va. It will include more than 90,000 forces from all31 NATO countries and prospective member Sweden, according to the statement.

During Steadfast Defender, allied forces will practice skills in varying climates, terrains and circumstances against the threat of Russian aggression in Europe. Joint Force Command Norfolk and 2nd Fleet worked with allies in planning the exercise.

A U.K.-led sea component of the exercise, Joint Warrior, begins Feb. 24. That exercise will include sailors and Marines from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Stars and Stripes reported last month.

The Navy has seen demands in the European theater grow in recent years, with operations in the Mediterranean Sea related to the Israel-Hamas war.

Influenced by those growing needs, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. 6th Fleet began the process of separating late last year after having operated as a single command since 2005.

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