by TSgt. Dan Heaton, 127th Wing Public Affairs
SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- In one of the most comprehensive displays of military might in the modern history of the Great Lakes region, Operation Northern Strike brought together Soldiers, Airmen and other military personnel for two weeks of intense operational training at locations across northern Michigan in August.
The second annual exercise showcased not only the integrated combat capability of the Michigan Air and Army National Guard, but also highlighted the state's primary training facilities at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, both located in northern Lower Michigan. Units and personnel from Selfridge Air National Guard Base and the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base also participated in the operation, along with support from Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force units from around the state and Great Lakes region. The exercise also featured an international flavor with a half-dozen combat controllers from Latvia - one of Michigan's two State Partnership for Peace partner nations - and from Canada participating in the exercise. In all, 29 different units from 16 states, plus the two international partners, participated in the exercise.
The exercise allowed the various units of the Michigan National Guard to train on joint operations between air, land and sea units - even including coordination with a U.S. Navy frigate off the Virginia coast, said Col. Michael T. Thomas, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which provided both A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft and KC-135 Stratotanker refuelers to the exercise.
"The Michigan National Guard continues to develop tools to jointly project air power anywhere in the world," Thomas said. "Our Air National Guard units, facilities and synergies lead the way in becoming the eyes and ears of the warfighter, presenting and processing information for the entire team in unprecedented ways."
During the exercise, 127th Wing personnel launched aircraft from both Selfridge and from Alpena. A variety of Michigan Army National Guard helicopters also utilized the same runways to participate in the exercise. Utilizing the same base infrastructure for the various aircraft from multiple units makes the exercise cost-efficient for the taxpayer, said Col. Bryan Teff, commander of the Alpena CRTC.
"Northern Strike 2013 will establish the framework for future joint multi-dimensional operations at Camp Grayling and the Alpena CRTC allowing for progression in complexity, integration and dept," Teff said. "This event will validate the necessity of joint forces training in sustaining a ready Michigan Army and Air National Guard that has regional focus and global agility."
Units participating in the exercise included infantry, cavalry, field artillery, aviation, special operations elements of the Michigan Army National Guard; Air National Guard and Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and F-16s Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules and B-52 StratroFortress aircraft in addition to the A-10s and KC-135s from Selfridge; Marines from the 2nd Division, and a new player to the exercise, the Coast Guard's ice breaker USCGC Mackinaw and rescue helicopters from Traverse City. In addition to Michigan, National Guard personnel from Illinois, New York, Indiana and Georgia participated in the exercise.
The exercise featured more than 700 air sorties, many of which included "live fire" evolutions at the Grayling Aerial Gunnery Range or personnel extractions during search and rescue operations.
The Michigan Air National Guard is comprised of the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base and the 110th Air Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. The MI-ANG also operates the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and the Grayling Aerial Gunnery Range in northern Michigan.