Four American servicemen were killed after an MV-22B Osprey from the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, US Marine Corps crashed in a secluded part of northern Norway last March 18. The crew members were taking part in Exercise Cold Response 2022. It is a NATO-planned annual military exercise held in Norway to help allies gain experience working together in cold regions.
“It is with great sadness we have rec(e)ived the message that four American soldiers died in a plane crash last night,” wrote Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre on Twitter. “The soldiers participated in the NATO exercise Cold Response. Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives, and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
The crew of four was out on training ops in Nordland County last Friday. They were on their way to Bodø, scheduled to arrive around 6:00 PM the same day. The aircraft was reported missing shortly after not landing on time.
The Norwegian rescue team reached the crash site early on Saturday after being delayed by bad weather, which included strong winds coupled with a heavy downpour. The wreckage was found in the mountains near Gråtådalen, in Beiarn, south of Bodø.
“It has now sadly been confirmed that the crew on board the American aircraft died in the accident. My thoughts go to the crew’s family, friends and colleagues,” said Norwegian Chief of Defense, Gen. Eirik Kristoffersen.
“I would like to thank everyone who have been involved in the search and rescue operation. We have no one to lose.”
The aircraft crew was assigned to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 based out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. The four fallen soldiers were identified last Sunday as Capt. Ross A. Reynolds of Leominster, Massachusetts; Capt. Matthew J. Tomkiewicz of Fort Wayne, Indiana; Cpl. Jacob M. Moore of Catlettsburg, Kentucky; and Sgt. James W. Speedy of Cambridge, Ohio. The names of the crew were released after the Marine Corps had notified their respective families about the deaths.
Sgt Speedy, who was an administrative specialist for the squadron, had decorations such as the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with two gold stars, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, and the Marine Corps Drill Instructor Ribbon.
Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Maj. Gen. Michael Cederholm sent his condolences to the families of the four US servicemen through a letter.
“The pilots and crew were committed to accomplishing their mission and serving a cause greater than themselves,” said the general.
The Marine Corps sent their regards to the Norwegian authorities who led the rescue operations.
“Norwegian civil authorities took the lead in search and rescue efforts, and we are grateful for their professional commitment to our enduring relationship. We are immensely grateful for the support of all first responders, the Norwegian Armed Forces, and Allies and partners that contributed various assets and people in the ongoing efforts,” said the US Marine Corps in a statement.
Investigations by the Norwegian police are still ongoing. However, details regarding the incident have not yet been released. While said investigations are underway, all four Marines were reportedly recovered from the crash site and are being returned home to the United States.
“Though the nature of military service is inherently dangerous, the safety of our Marines, Sailors, Allies, and partners is our top priority. Our hearts go out to the families affected by these events. The incident is currently under investigation by both Norwegian and US organizations,” the US Marine Corps added.
Military aviation may be the most dangerous occupation in the services whether in peacetime or in times of conflict. Last February, a similar crash occurred when a helicopter crashed at a US naval facility in Hawaii. The incident killed four contractors onboard the aircraft.
Exercise Cold Response 2022
Approximately 30,000 military personnel from over 27 independent territories across Europe and North America flocked to Norway and nearby seas for the joint military exercise. The multiple-week-long event comprises wilderness treks, live-fire drills, and signature dives into freezing lakes to help troops adjust to the cold Norwegian climate and other countries of the same environment.
According to the NATO website, Cold Response is a regular pre-planned event unrelated to the recent events in Ukraine.
“Cold Response 2022 is a long-planned and regular exercise, which Norway hosts biannually. This year’s exercise was announced over eight months ago,” it wrote on the site. “It is not linked to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine, which NATO is responding to with preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory measures.”
The first edition of the Cold Response exercise was conducted in 2006. Over the decades, the Norwegian military has helped educate Allies on how to navigate the grueling northern terrain. Norway has been hosting other similar military exercises with its NATO allies and partners since the 1950s.
Norway has also invited all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) under the obligations listed on the Vienna Document. The Russian Northern Fleet was briefed months before the event via video to avoid any misunderstandings with Russia and set an open and transparent dialogue with the Kremlin, according to the Chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters. They had also invited Russia to observe the exercises last January.