Photo Caption: An A-10 Thunderbolt II prepares to land at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan, Aug. 6, 2016. The aircraft, flown by the 107th Fighter Squadron, Michigan Air National Guard, flew from its home station of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, to the Alpena CRTC to participate in Northern Strike 2016. Northern Strike 16 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting approximately 5,000 Army, Air Force, Marine, and Special Forces service members from 20 states and three coalition countries during the first three weeks of August 2016 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Michigan. The exercise strives 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, and the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment. (Michigan National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton/Released)
Northern Strike 2016 has begun.
Nearly 5,000 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines have reported for duty at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in northern Michigan for the exercise which will run through Aug. 20. The troops – hailing from nearly two dozen states and several international coalition partners – will hone their combat skills while utilizing the full spectrum of training opportunities offered by the Michigan facilities.
“The magnitude of this exercise – the complex nature of so many moving components – tell a powerful story about the capabilities that exist here in Michigan,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
“What started out six years ago as a relatively small, Air National Guard-only exercise has now grown to become one of the largest, perhaps the largest, exercise in the nation, led and planned by a Reserve component force,” Vadnais said.
During the exercise, participating units will not only be focusing on their unit-specific training priorities, but will be engaging in a number of integrated exercises, such as Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft practicing close air support of Army infantry troops.
New to the exercise this year will be a major amphibious landing exercise conducted by Marine Corps Forces on Lake Margrethe at Camp Grayling.
Army ground forces participating in the exercise include infantry, artillery and signal units. The significant acreage Camp Grayling provides allows brigade-sized ground forces to maneuver freely while employing a variety of weapon systems to include: M-4 rifle, M240B machine gun, 60mm, 81mm mortars, and 155mm howitzers. Aircraft scheduled to participate in the exercise include the A-10, F-16, B-1, C-130, KC-135, and the JSTARS E-8C which provides an airborne, stand-off range, surveillance and target acquisition radar and command control center.
During an in-briefing for unit commanders and other senior leaders as the exercise began, Col. James Roberts, commander of the Alpena CRTC, spelled out his directive for units participating in the exercise.
“On this base, ‘no’ is not an answer. If you have a resource you need, any assistance at all in reaching your unit’s training objectives, we are going to make that happen,” Roberts said.
At Camp Grayling, camp officials said due to the training, a number of roads and trails around some of the training ranges at the sprawling base will be closed intermittently to accommodate troop training but will reopen as soon as possible once the exercise is finished and cleared.