Family members and military spouses worried about their Marines stuck in limbo overseas over COVID-19 concerns can rest a little bit easier as Marines begin to return home and deployment rotations prepare to recommence.

Some Marines and other service members stranded in Norway over the spread of COVID-19 are back home in the United States while a new rotation of several hundred Marines is prepping to step off for the Arctic country potentially by late spring, according to U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa.

Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that a “portion” of the service members with Marine Rotational Force-Europe have returned to the U.S.

Rankine-Galloway, said the service members upon returning to their duty stations in U.S. started 14 days of “restricted movement and monitoring” in compliance with guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

“In accordance with Department of Defense health and travel guidelines, their return to the United States had originally been delayed in order to safeguard the health of local Norwegian and US communities, as well as our Marines and Sailors,” Rankine-Galloway said.

The remaining Marines and members with MRF-E will stay in Norway until the next rotation is on deck, which is expected sometime late spring, Rankine-Galloway said.

“We anticipate the next rotation arriving later in the spring of 2020, but remain flexible in light of the dynamic global public health situation,” Rankine-Galloway explained.

“We are working closely with the relevant military organizations to ensure that we are able to carry out these movements in a manner that minimizes the risk of COVID-19 exposure to our Norwegian allies, stateside communities and our Marines,” he said.

Rankine-Galloway said he would not “speculate” on an exact date when the remaining Marines would be home and a new rotation on deck, but he said Marine Forces Europe and Africa was “working diligently” to bring home deployed service members.

“MRF-E continues its training in Norway and maintains its military readiness through local field exercises, live-fire weapons ranges and non-lethal weapons training,” he said.

Norweigan officials canceled the remaining portion of Cold Response, which kicked off on March 8 — as COVID-19 began to pick up steam around the globe. The exercise involved nearly 15,000 troops from allied and partnered nations with roughly 1,500 U.S. troops slated to participate.

“U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa continues to command and control its allocated forces; plan for future operations, exercises and engagements; and maintains its readiness posture for operations in Europe and Africa,” Rankine-Galloway said.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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