Military exercise in Michigan marks 25 year collaboration with Latvia

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Exercise Northern Strike continued on Monday as Lt. Gen. Leonids Kalnins, Chief of Defense, National Armed Forces of Latvia, visited Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Alpena, and the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City. The visit helped mark the 25th anniversary of the Michigan National Guard’s collaboration with the National Armed Forces of Latvia under the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP).

Lt. Gen. Kalnins is the highest-ranking military officer in Latvia, equivalent to the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Close cultural ties between Latvia and Michigan predate the SPP, starting with approximately 5,000 Latvians who came to Michigan as refugees from Soviet brutality during the 1940s and 1950s. The SPP defense cooperation between Michigan and Latvia has produced mutual dividends, expanding the capability and interoperability of service members in both Michigan and Latvia.  

 

In the photo above, Lt. Gen. Leonids Kalnins, Chief of Defense, National Armed Forces of Latvia, receives a memento from Col. John Miner, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, on Aug. 13, 2018 at the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City. 

 

Northern Strike 18 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting service members from many states, multiple service branches and a number of coalition countries during the first three weeks of August 2018 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Michigan and operated by the Michigan National Guard. The accredited Joint National Training Capabilities exercise demonstrates the Michigan National Guard’s ability to provide accessible, readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, together with the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment.

In the photos below, Exercise Northern Strike events over the weekend included a helicopter sling-load mission over the airfield at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. Pararescue specialists also trained at the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City.

Pararescue specialists with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, Westhampton Beach, New York, pull simulated Marine casualties from an exercise crash environment at the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City, Mich., Aug. 11, 2018. The jumpers trained on recovering casualties while under fire in a joint training environment.

STORY BELOW PUBLISHED AUGUST 10, 2018

By Tech. Sgt. Jason A Boyd

“CONTACT RIGHT, CONTACT RIGHT!”

Infantry Marines with the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Division,Grand Rapids, Mich., tactically engaged Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) from the German Army and Air Force, teamed with soldiers from the 1-296th Infantry Battalion, Puerto Rico National Guard, in a joint fires exercise at Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City, Mich. Aug. 7, 2018, during Northern Strike 18.

The Marines came to Northern Strike 18 to gain experience working with other forces and to allow younger Marines the opportunity to train and acquire knowledge of certain terrains and tactical environments.

While here, they are working as hostile opposing forces(OPFOR), simulating defense procedures and ambushes against JTACs from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland,Germany, and the U.S. Air Force. 

The mission of the JTAC is to coordinate close-air-support, and provide aircraft guidance control to increase the capability of ground combat forces. They are also experts in artillery and in naval combat and attack helicopter capabilities; they use combat assets to engage and destroy the enemy. 

OPFOR play vital role in creating the realistic, multinational training experience that Northern Strike has become, providing an enemy for the JTACs to combat. With OPFOR on the ground, it affords them the opportunity to use their training to reach objectives in a real-world training environment.

“These Marines have an opportunity here to get eyes on missions and perform night movements, set up ambushes, and perform tactical movements that many of them haven’t had the chance to do, as they are fresh out of the School of Infantry,said Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Hults.

During the exercise, the Marines worked with simulated explosive devices, set trip wires, placed landmines, and used their infantry training in a simulated real-world environment to prevent the JTACs from reaching their objectives, if possible.

“Being at Northern Strike helps because working as OPFOR gives us a better look at what the enemy in the real world is doing. It makes us especially watchful for what can be used against us in a real operational environment,” said Lance Cpl. Lucas Brower.

Each of the training sequences is unique to what group of JTACs the OPFOR are facing each day. In this mutually-beneficial environment, JTACs also receive certifications needed to maintain readiness. By participating in different scenarios,complacency is avoided and JTACs and OPFOR all work at the highest level of alertness. 

Northern Strike, the largest joint, reserve component exercise, affords ground commanders the uncommon training opportunity to expand operational capabilities with fixed and rotary wing close air support.

“Northern Strike has provided the opportunity to get a lot of training I may not have gotten anywhere else,” said Brower. “We get to perform our mission here at the quarry and get a great experience.”

Northern Strike 18 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting over 5,000 service members from many states, multiple service branches, and nine coalition countries during the first three weeks of August 2018 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Michigan and operated by the Michigan National Guard.

The accredited Joint National Training Capabilities exercise demonstrates the Michigan National Guard’s ability to provide accessible, readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, together with the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment. 

To find out more about the Northern Strike exercise, click here

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