Residents of the sleepy Norwegian town of Oppdal went about their normal business Thursday, while the rumble of tanks and the crackling of gunfire echoed around them.
As part of NATO’s Trident Juncture war games, U.S. Marine armored vehicles and infantry battled their way through to liberate the town and seize its small airfield.
As Marines dashed into positions and secured various objectives, residents ate lunch at local cafes overlooking the mock combat, scarcely giving the battle unfolding in front of them a glance.
“I have seen some soldiers (and Marines), but they have been quiet and polite,” said Vilde Staverlokk, a local waitress, who said people around town generally mind their own business. “They aren’t getting in the way for us.”
The town was the main target in the amphibious force’s assault on an “enemy” that had occupied Norway, played by Spanish, Italian and German troops.
“The Marines are repelling the enemy forces who have dug in to Oppdal,” said Marine spokesman Lt. Larry Boyd. “The city is the key objective in our area of operations during the exercise.”
As the first big battle of Trident Juncture for the 11,000 Marines in Norway, seizing Oppdal allows them to continue to their offensive operations against the fictional occupying army.
The Marines hit the town from three sides, then proceeded to push the enemy southward away from the city and into the surrounding valleys.
The action began with a tank battle between Marine M1A1 Abrams tanks — drawn from the Marines’ pre-positioned storage caves hidden in Norwegian mountains — and Spanish Leopard 2E tanks to wrest control of the airport.
“Our plan is to use our speed to attack fast and hit them hard,” said Lance Cpl. Joaquin Medina, a Marine tanker, before the assault.
“We have a plan to engage the enemy, but once you make contact, plans usually go out the window and you have to operate on the fly,” said fellow tanker Cpl. Joshua Avalos. “It usually comes down to who has the better platoon and who trained more.”
Once the airfield was taken, the tanks pushed down the highway, fighting more Spanish armor all the way to the town.
The heavy armor unit was joined by dismounted Marines advancing through the snowy woodlands, and LAV-25s, including the anti-tank variant armed with wire-guided missiles.
The dismounted troops then secured the city, including all major entrances and exits.
Plans call for the Marines to continue to engage the mock enemy further away from Oppdal in the following days.