SAN DIEGO - Two midshipmen from the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy trained aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) from July 18 to Aug. 7 as part of the Foreign Exchange Training of Midshipman (FOREXTRAMID) program.
This program is managed by Naval Service Training Command in coordination with Operational Navy (OPNAV) N3/N5 and the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA).
FOREXTRAMID provides a significant opportunity for both nations to connect at the most junior level that may lead to long-term mutual understanding and appreciation of both military capabilities and cultural point of views.
Traditionally, foreign participation in the U.S. Navy educational programs has created better understanding of the United States and Navy. This translates directly into vital assistance in coalition operations throughout the world.
OPNAV N3/N5 selects countries each year to participate based on a countries ability and desire to send their midshipmen to Navy ships for two to four week periods during summer breaks.
Foreign country participants are chosen by their respective navy. The Royal Norwegian Navy chose Fenrick Frank Andersen and Eivind Vedlog, both from Bergen, Norway, to join Academy midshipmen and Naval Reserve Officer Training Course (NROTC) students aboard Peleliu.
During the underway, Lt. j.g. Shawn Henry, Peleliu's main propulsion division officer, guided Andersen and Vedlog as their running mate. He helped them through the process of completing personal qualification standard and experiencing shipboard life.
"I make sure that they're always occupied, going to different events on the ship," said Henry. "They learn everything we do, as well as what it takes to be a division officer."
They have observed flight quarters, utility landing craft (LCU) evolutions and bridge operations during the ship's composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) underway period.
"Watching the helicopters and the AV-8B Harriers landing and taking off as well as the well deck to see the LCUs coming in has been my favorite part," said Andersen. "I've never seen that before so it's quite exciting."
The main part of their training focused on bridge operations, as they prepare to become navigators for the Royal Norwegian Navy.
"Of all the midshipmen that have come through that I've met from the Academy and NROTC, they are by far the most knowledgeable as far as navigation and the intricacies of radar go," Henry said. "It's outstanding that they know so much. I'm blown away. They're very professional and always on point with everything they do."
There are several differences between the Norwegian and U.S. navies.
One of the differences is the size. The Norwegian navy has 6,100 personnel and 70 ships, all of which are frigates and smaller. The U.S. Navy has more than 321,000 personnel and more than 250 ships.
"We don't have amphibious vessels, naval aviation or well decks in Norway," said Vedlog. "There are a lot of new things for us to see. It's a blast."
Other than the size of the two navies, cultural differences provide another obstacle to overcome.
"So far I feel their transition has been rather smooth," said Midshipman 1st Class Bethany May, an NROTC student from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. "Their language skills have allowed them to pick up on the subtle customs and greetings that are common in the Navy. Furthermore, they hold a great deal of prior knowledge of U.S. Navy customs. When talking to them, they seem to be enjoying and learning from the experience."
Although they could often be viewed and treated as midshipmen, along with the Naval Academy and NROTC students during COMPTUEX, their ranking as Fenriks in the Norwegian navy is equivalent to an ensign in the U.S. Navy.
Of the Sailors and environment on the Peleliu, Vedlog said, "I feel we fit in well here. Everyone is so nice and friendly. They will talk to you freely, offer to show you around the ship and take care of us in general."
This year's Foreign Exchange Training of Midshipmen program expected a total of 70 midshipmen from 33 countries to cross-train with the U.S. Navy through professional immersion at sea.
Peleliu is the flagship for the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group and is currently underway conducting COMPTUEX in the Pacific Ocean with docking landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20).