More than 5,000 Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors will participate in the third annual Operation Northern Strike (ONS) exercise, based primarily at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, two of the largest, most comprehensive training centers in the nation. Both facilities are operated by the Michigan National Guard.
During the three-week exercise, which begins with planning briefings on Sunday, Aug. 2 and moves into the active phase the following day, the focus will be on integration techniques that allows the various units to contribute their unique capabilities to a larger scenario. As an example, A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft operated by the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, will be flying a number of close-air support and search-and-rescue missions during the exercise, closely coordinating with Army infantry and similar ground-based units.
"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."
Aircraft scheduled to participate in the exercise include Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers, KC-10 Extenders, C-130 Hercules, B-1 Lancers, B-52 Stratofortresses, E-8 JSTARS, O-2 Skymasters, RC-26 Metroliner; Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets; and Army UH-60 Blackhawks, 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.
Military personnel from Canada and Latvia will also be a part of ONS.
In total, 24 units from 12 States and two Coalition partners will participate in the three-week event.
While the exercise focuses on meeting the training needs of the individual units participating, ONS 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 in centered 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.
About the Michigan National Guard
The Michigan National Guard's 12,000 Soldiers and Airmen stand ready to serve both state and nation. With operations at three air fields, two major training bases and more than 40 armories around the state, Michigan National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are trained to provide a wide-range of disaster response and other support to civil authorities, while maintaining a high degree of combat readiness. The Michigan National Guard operates two State Partnership for Peace programs, with Latvia (since 1993) and Liberia (since 2009). Joint Forces Headquarters is in Lansing.
About Operation Northern Strike
Centered at two of the nation's largest National Guard training facilities - Camp Grayling Joint Military Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center - Operation Northern Strike is an annual National Guard Bureau sponsored Combined Live Fire Exercise. The exercise emphasizes the Theatre Air Control and Army Air Ground Systems (TACS/AAGS) within the Theatre Air Ground System (TAGS). It blends Maneuver, Close Air Support (CAS), Joint Fire Support, and Air Mobility in both Major Combat Operations and limited Operation Enduring Freedom scenarios.