Members of the JFCBS HQ Staff participate in the Table Top Exercise (TTX) for Exercise Cold Response 2022 (CR22) at JFCBS, Brunssum, the Netherlands, 02 June 2021.

picture by OR-9 Leo Roos, JFCBS PAO Production

NATO generals got stress tested ahead of Cold Response

In just four hours, the generals had to agree on how to solve an imaginary attack on Norway. This forms the basis for next year's winter exercise in Norway.

Recently, the Norwegian Joint Headquarters held a so-called tabletop exercise. This serves as the first part of the winter exercise Cold Response 2022, which will be held in northern Norway in March next year.

The main participants at the tabletop exercise were the commanders of the Allied Joint Force Command (JFC) in Brunssum, the Netherlands, and JFC Norfolk, the USA – along with the chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters.

Also present were generals and admirals from various national commands with interests in the North Atlantic, such as France, the United Kingdom, the USA, and Norway. The exercise was held on a highly encrypted video conference platform.

Putting the High North on the map

The purpose was to get the commander’s perspectives and guidelines for a high-intensity military operation in Norway, and to put the High North on the agenda.

“We were able to put the High North properly on the map in NATO”, says Commander Sveinung Hegge. He is project manager for this part of the exercise, and also responsible for the actual scenario the commanders had to deal with.

“We created a multidimensional scenario that no military component could solve alone. And with that, we gave the commanders an impression on how a situation may look like here – two days after Norway and NATO have been attacked”, Hegge explains.

The generals and admirals were then asked how they understood the situation and how they would resolve it. They were given a total of four hours to come up with a joint fundament to get the staffs started with further, detailed planning.

First, the chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters, Lieutenant General Yngve Odlo, was asked to share his highest priorities. Then the NATO and national commanders presented their input on solutions to handle and counter the imaginary attack on NATO.

Sending a 'strong message' of NATO unity

“Through the preparation and implementation of Cold Response 2022, we create arenas to train and test all levels of the Alliance in a realistic scenario. This is very important”, says Odlo, chief of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters.

General Jörg Vollmer, commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Brunssum, calls the coming winter exercise in Norway a clear example of NATO’s unity and strength.

“Cold Response 2022 will send a strong message of the unity and solidarity in NATO. And it shows that we are ready to defend the Alliance’s northern region against any potential attacker”, says General Vollmer.

Making exercise history

Project manager Hegge says the NATO commanders had several great discussions on how the Alliance can initiate a counterattack.

“To gather commanders and chiefs at this level to discuss and agree on a common action and direction through video conference has never been done before. I am quite proud of the efforts by the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and the Norwegian Armed Forces' representatives at the NATO commands”, Hegge adds.

The experiences and outcome of the tabletop exercise will also apply to Cold Response 2022.

Military exercises in the past have normally been based on the training and exercise goals of the participating nations. Cold Response 2022, however, will be based on the NATO commanders’ decisions at the tabletop exercise.