US Army, July 21, 2015 - LANSING, Mich. by Lt Col William Humes – Aircraft from more than a dozen military units will be operating in northern Michigan over the next several weeks as part of a major training exercise involving military personnel from Canada, Latvia, Poland, Australia and 20 states’ military forces.
Northern Strike is unique in that it combines both air and ground combat capabilities in one training exercise.
“Northern Strike allows us to train the way we fight,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Trumble, a Michigan Air National Guard officer and the exercise director. “When we deploy to a combat theater, ground and air assets work closely together to accomplish their objectives. This exercise simulates operations in a counter insurgency environment, similar to situations the U.S. military has been involved with over the past several years.”
More than 3,000 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines will participate in the fourth annual Operation Northern Strike exercise, based primarily at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. Live fire exercises involving small arms, mortars, artillery and aerial munitions will take place on Camp Grayling from July 20-31.
Aircraft scheduled to participate in the exercise include Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers, A-10 Thunderbolts, C-130 Hercules, E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System; and Army UH-60 Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks, UH-72 Lakota and the RQ-7 Shadow. A number of the aircraft will be staged at the Alpena CRTC during the exercise, while others will fly in from their home station for specific training missions.
Army ground forces participating in the exercise include infantry, armored cavalry, reconnaissance and signals units. The significant size of Camp Grayling allows the ground forces to maneuver while employing a variety of tactical weapon systems to include M-4 rifle, M240B machine gun, 60mm and 81mm mortars and M-777, 155mm howitzers.
While the exercise focuses on meeting the training needs of the individual units participating, Northern Strike also showcases the training facilities operated by the Michigan National Guard.
Camp Grayling is the largest National Guard training facility in the U.S., covering 147,000 acres around the city of Grayling. The facility hosts as many as 20,000 Soldiers a year who utilize the camp’s artillery, mortar and tank ranges, helicopter airfield and numerous other facilities. The camp is also home to the Grayling Air Gunnery Range, which allows aircraft to train with a variety of air-to-ground weapons systems.
The Alpena CRTC manages the largest airspace east of the Mississippi River and includes training facilities for firefighters, security forces and medical squadrons, among others.