Norway Prepositioning Management Office Fills Critical Mission
By 2nd. Lt. Caleb Eames Public Affairs Officer

The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway stores vehicles and equipment in top shape deep underground at cave sites throughout Norway. A small group of extremely dedicated government employees based in Jacksonville, Fla., who manage a program based in Norway, is a big part of the reason the Marine Corps holds the title “the force in readiness.”

Employees at Blount Island Command, part of Logistics Command, manage Marine Corps forward deployed equipment around the globe. This equipment is designed to be already on station closer to high threat areas overseas, thereby reducing response time of forces from the United States. BICmd has some prepositioned equipment stored on cargo ships, floating in strategic locations throughout the world.

But the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway, run by the Norway Prepositioning Management Office, is the land-based portion of the prepositioning program for the Marine Corps, and manages materials that are equally as important. And the land-based equipment, in some cases, is utilized more often than the seagoing counterparts.

“MCPP-N enhances regional combatant commanders' operational responsiveness by providing mission-tailored, prepositioned assets that support global U.S. Marine Corps expeditionary operations ranging from low to mid intensity conflicts,” said Barbara Henry, head, NPMO, BICmd, while describing the mission. “MCPP-N provides maximum flexibility because equipment and supplies can be tailored to meet multiple tasks.”

Equipment is stored in six cave sites, bored into the sides of mountains of solid rock, as well as two airstrip locations, all in central Norway. Three of the cave sites hold ground equipment, including vehicles, engineer assets, and supply items. The three other caves contain only ammunition. Two other airstrip locations nearby hold equipment to support Marine aviation, although there are no Marine Corps aircraft regularly there.

The MCPP-N program, which will be 20 years old in September, was started in 1988 in response to the Soviet threat to Europe during the Cold War. The Norwegian and U.S. governments decided to move the equipment to Norway, and at that time it was kept outside near shipping ports. The caves were started in 1986 to better protect the equipment, and were completed in 1988. Then in 1989, the Cold War ended. Although that particular threat is past, the equipment is still strategically placed and is being used to support both exercises and real world operations.

“The MCPP-N program has proved to be a strong viable equipment source for the Marine Corps,” said Henry. “It has been used to support both real world operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as training missions and home-station shortfalls.”

The total underground storage areas cover more than 25 acres of floor space, and added together, there are more than three and a half miles of tunnels. The amount of equipment and ammunition stored normally is enough to support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for 30 days of combat. However, with recent support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the amount of equipment in the caves today has been reduced temporarily.

The equipment in the caves still has to meet all the maintenance requirements that any equipment back in the U.S. does. So throughout the year, the Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization/Marine Expeditionary Brigade keeps the equipment operational using Marine Corps standards.

Antonio Smith, supply logistics analyst, Norway Prepositioning Management Office, BICmd, LOGCOM, speaks with Norwegian Capt. Bard Lundsaunet, the Officer in Charge of Tromsdal cave site, about vehicle storage conditions "The relationship we enjoy is very good," said Lt. Col. Knut Eirik Ballestad, commanding officer of NDLO/MEB, who has 28 years with the Norwegian military. “The MCPP-N program has a good focus. What we see today is very much what the Marine Corps needs. How we store the equipment, with the commanders' being able to see what we have everywhere in the world, that's needed. It's a good thing for both Norway and the U.S.”

"Now the program supports all different situations, not only defending Norway,” Ballestad continued. “If there is a natural catastrophe or any terrorist threat, we can support response to that as well. This is even better now for Norway than it used to be, and this is supporting the U.S. even better as well.”

"The biggest change here is that the cave is down from its pre-war equipment level,” added Capt. Bard Andre Lundsaunet, Officer in Charge of the Tromsdal cave site. “In 2003 and 2004, we did several large shipments to Iraq."

The Norwegian cave staff members pull gear out on a rotating basis to perform maintenance and ensure serviceability per Marine Corps orders. Knut Holan is the maintenance foreman at the Frigard cave site, and he’s been working for the Marines for 20 years. He is responsible for the vehicles and equipment in the cave, ensuring that the road tests are done and the equipment is functional, and the proper equipment is pulled when requested. "Every 18 months the rolling stock is taken outside to do a full check on it and make everything is functioning,” Holan said. “We also do load testing on the cranes, and run the generators on the load banks. We check everything."

And several times a year, BICmd sends a team out to verify that the equipment is being maintained to standard, and to keep the Norwegian cave staff updated with new equipment and training. During this most recent visit, which started in June, there were several additional projects happening, all occurring at the same time.

First, the BICmd team a group of quality assurance inspectors out to ensure that the equipment is being maintained as required. These subject matter experts contributed their years of experience operating and maintaining the materials in question in order to provide another layer of assurance that the equipment will be ready to use in a contingency.

“Ultimately, Blount Island Command has to ensure that the equipment is maintained in accordance with the Marine Corps orders. We use the experience of seasoned Marine Corps veterans expertly trained in Marine Corps equipment, to validate that the equipment is ready in partnership with the Norwegians. They also provide new orders and regulations as required,” said Danny Bennett, assistant head, NPMO, BICmd, who led the most recent team to travel to Norway.

Secondly, a team from Marine Corps Systems Command accompanied BICmd personnel to implement a new computer system for the medical logistics program at a cave site. In order to outfit a MEB for 30 days of combat, there must be medical supplies included in the prepositioned stores. With BICmd switching to a new computer program to manage medical logistics, MCPP-N also is undergoing a transition with the assistance of MARCORSYSCOM. Trainers with the Navy Medical Logistics Program at Ft. Detrick, Md., also traveled to Norway to provide training on the new systems to the Norwegian staff.

“With the old program leaving the Marine Corps, it is important that we come up to speed on the new computer system. This will provide increased visibility to BICmd and will standardize us with the rest of the Corps and Department of Defense,” said Bennett.

The third major program underway was the Personnel Temporary Augmentee Program Norway, which is a program to bring reserve Marines during their two week annual drill period to Norway to assist where necessary.

This deployment of reserve Marines was extremely successful for MCPP-N and NDLO/MEB. During this PTAP, the reservists were able to confirm a 98 percent readiness rate, far exceeding the required 90 percent. They were also able to exercise virtually every transportation or engineer asset, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the beginning of the MCPP-N program in 1988.

Capt Ola Gilberg, the Officer in Charge of Frigard cave, speaks with Ivan Rodriguez, Maintenance Analyst with Norway Prepositioning Managment Office, BICmd, LOGCOM “This frees up time for the Norwegians to do other important maintenance, and at the same time, gets the reservists familiar with the equipment that they could one day see in a contingency operation,” said Ivan Rodriquez, maintenance management analyst, NPMO, BICmd.

Along with the vehicle maintenance, the reserve Marines also conducted supply operations, including assembling new supply containers, receiving and retrofitting fuel systems, and constructing new hazardous material storage systems.

“The implementation of the container pallet systems is a great benefit to the MCPP-N program. It allows the assets to be packed and ready to be loaded onto vessels for deployment purposes,” said Antonio Smith, supply logistics analyst, NPMO, BICmd. “Also, by removing the serviceable SL-3 items from the old fuel systems and using them in the new fuel systems, it allows the Marine Corps to utilize its serviceable SL-3 assets instead of disposing them and saves the Marine Corps money,” Smith continued.

Finally, MCPP-N was tasked to support the annual Africa Lion exercise, an exercise designed to increase cooperation with governments and militaries in the northeast portion of the continent, with vehicles and equipment. After Norwegian staff pulled the appropriate gear from the caves and readied the gear for deployment, Marine reservists arrived from the U.S. to load the aircraft and then accompanied the gear to Morocco. Upon completion of the exercise, the equipment will be returned to the caves after being completely cleaned and serviced. This ability to deploy gear from a forward location saves time and money spent if the same equipment were to be sent from the U.S.

“Shipping the equipment from Norway minimizes delivery and response time for exercises and operations in the European theater,” Bennett said.

The Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway ensures vehicles such as this are kept ready for action even though they are stored deep underground at cave sites throughout Norway The Norwegian staff recognizes the advantages of MCPP-N as well. "There have always been strong ties between the two countries. We both have democracies and share the same values," said Einar Tromsdal, head inspector for Tromsdal cave, with which he shares his family name. "The equipment can stay in the caves a lot longer than if it were on an MPF ship traveling all over the world. And so far we've been able to pull out the gear and send it quickly. In Kosovo, we sent the equipment and it arrived long before personnel did,” Tromsdal said.

"We're proud of the Marine Corps," added Odd Ronning, a class nine manager for NDLO/MEB who retired from the Norwegian military after 28 years. "I can do what I’m best at for the Marine Corps."

MCPP-N is also constantly receiving new or refurbished vehicles and equipment from Logistics Command Maintenance Centers in Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif.

MCPP-N is also constantly receiving new or refurbished vehicles and equipment from Logistics Command Maintenance Centers in Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif.

MCPP-N is also constantly receiving new or refurbished vehicles and equipment from Logistics Command Maintenance Centers in Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif.

Capt. Ola Gilberg, OIC of the Frigard cave site, has been in the Norwegian military since 1986. Among his other duties, he also coordinates about 20 VIP visits a year, briefing elected officials, generals, and ambassadors about the program. "This program has great value for both the Marines and the Norwegians,” Gilberg said. “We are sending out good equipment, and we do it fast and cheap."

Capt. Ola Gilberg, OIC of the Frigard cave site, has been in the Norwegian military since 1986. Among his other duties, he also coordinates about 20 VIP visits a year, briefing elected officials, generals, and ambassadors about the program. "This program has great value for both the Marines and the Norwegians,” Gilberg said. “We are sending out good equipment, and we do it fast and cheap."