Military exercise in U.P., northern Michigan

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ALPENA, Mich. — Military units from the U.S., U.K., Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia are at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and across northern Michigan through August 18 for Exercise Northern Strike ‘18.  Officials say residents in parts of the U.P. may see military aircraft including fighters, cargo planes and helicopters during the exercise.

Exercise Northern Strike is a robust military readiness event hosted annually at Michigan National Guard facilities, which, in addition to Alpena CRTC, will include Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Grayling Air-to-Ground Range, the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry in Rogers City and the former site of K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula. With approximately 5,000 participating Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, and Marines, Northern Strike is one of the largest reserve component exercises supported by the U.S. military. Its mission is to maximize the full-spectrum combat readiness of National Guard units through realistic, cost-effective joint fires training in an adaptable environment, with an emphasis on cooperation between joint and coalition forces.

“Each year, the training opportunities provided by Northern Strike get better and better,” said Col. John Miner, Alpena CRTC commander. “From all four Department of Defense components to our coalition partners, we’ve not seen another exercise that combines the multi-spectrum, multi-domain, and joint live-fire integration into one exercise like Northern Strike does.”

Alpena CRTC will be the focal point of air operations during the exercise. Fixed wing aircraft scheduled to participate include the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16C Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules, MQ-9 Reaper, KC-135 Stratotanker, E-8C Joint STARS, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) Cessna 182, RC-26, as well as rotary aircraft including the UH-60 Blackhawk, AH-1W Super Cobra, CH-47 Chinook, and the UH-1Y Venom/Super Huey.

The Northern Strike live-fire exercise involves small arms, mortars, artillery, and aerial munitions at the Camp Grayling range complex and Lake Huron water range, along with simulated-fire exercises at locations such as the Carmeuse Lime and Stone Calcite Quarry in Rogers City, some coastal waters of Lake Huron, and Mullet Lake in Cheboygan County. Close air support is the primary air mission, with other secondary missions including air interdiction, airlift and airdrop, combat search and rescue, air-to-air refueling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“Given the all-season and all-terrain training environment that Northern Michigan provides, Alpena CRTC, is proud to support the air component for the exercise,” said Miner. “Hosting almost 1,500 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen and nearly 60 aircraft, this will be our biggest and most complex Northern Strike exercise to date.”

Northern Strike also presents a unique opportunity to showcase collaboration between the Michigan National Guard and partner nations, including Latvia. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Michigan National Guard’s partnership with the National Armed Forces of Latvia under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). Latvian personnel will work side-by-side with Michigan National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during air and ground combat capability drills at Alpena. Collaboration between Latvian military personnel and airmen from Alpena CRTC has been particularly strong in the fields of fire protection, air traffic control and airfield management, and Joint Terminal Air Control (JTAC) – a capability that allows the direction of combat aircraft engaged in close air support and other air operations from a forward position.

“Michigan’s partnership with the National Armed Forces of Latvia was the first relationship formed under the SPP in 1993,” said Lt. Col. Dustin Budd, Bilateral Affairs Officer for the Michigan National Guard. “Since then, the SPP has grown in size and scope over the decades and pays dividends beyond what anyone could have originally expected. Exercise Northern Strike is a key event in this partnership because it puts American and Latvian service members side-by-side in realistic incident management scenarios that test the skills, trust, and mutual experience they’ve built over time.”

This is the seventh year that Alpena CRTC has been a host for Exercise Northern Strike. The influx of visiting units provides a perennial boost to the local economy, with an estimated $1.97 million in added revenue each year.

For more information on Alpena CRTC, visit

Exercise Northern Strike continued on August 7th, with its second day of combat readiness drills in Alpena, Rogers City, Grayling, and other operating areas across northern Michigan, including Marquette County.

Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the German armed forces, National Guardsmen from Puerto Rico, and U.S. Marines all participated in training at the Carmeuse Calcite Quarry in Rogers City. 

In one scenario, the group staged a combat search and rescue training exercise that involved a ‘downed aviator’ who was rescued. 

Infantry Marines with the 1st Battalion, 24th Marine Division from Grand Rapids worked as opposing forces during simulated defense procedures and ambushes against Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from the German Army and Air Force teamed with soldiers from the 1-296th Infantry Battalion, Puerto Rico National Guard.

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.

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