Archipelago Endeavor (AE 23) is carried out as part of the declaration of intent that was signed by Sweden and the US in 2016. As the exercise has already been carried out four times, many of the US Marine corps soldiers and the Swedish marine soldiers have already met in previous exercises, and this is also true for sergeant Virtanen, who is participating for the fourth time this year.
“Some of the participants I have already met, officers, soldiers and specialists, which is great. It helps a lot when you have worked together before. We just pick up where we left off and continue to develop and grow together”, says sergeant Virtanen, Company Fire Support Officer of the 2nd Marine Battalion.
The exercise runs for three weeks and starts off with the US and Swedish soldiers demonstrating their equipment and materiel. Then the soldiers train each other on the different weapon systems before the next stage of the exercise starts.
“The US marine corps soldiers are very driven. They are eager to carry out their service and to do it well. It is very interesting to see and a learning experience for us. They are curious and want to know more about our military activities and our culture. They also think that we are a bit silly in that we carry the RBS 17 instead of mounting it on a helicopter”, says sergeant Virtanen.
Last year, the units took a big step forward as regards the development of striking sea targets. The USMC brought a sea radar unit as well as a man-portable air defence system. The radar could receive target data and make a sea situational report at company level.
“It made things easier for me to do target selection and set priorities. The protection of the strike units by man-portable air defence systems is something that I personally feel that we need to develop and bring to our battalion”, says sergeant Virtanen.
The archipelago environment is unique and challenging for the US marine corps soldiers, but as this is an annual exercise they become more and more familiar with the terrain every year. Now, the two countries have the capability to combine units and solve joint tasks, in a short time. In the 2023 edition of the exercise, focus will lie on enhancing the bridging capabilities.
“Archipelago Endeavor is a great opportunity for the 2nd Marine battalion and the USMC to develop their capability here and now, while at the same time plan for the future”, says Lieutenant Colonel Appelgren, Exercise Commander and Head of 2nd Battalion.