Friday, June 19, 2009

Exercise Northern Edge 2009 kicks into high gear

by Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew W. Miller, Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau

Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska (AFNS) -- Exercise Northern Edge 2009 officially kicked off June 15 at various locations throughout Alaska.

Participants from all branches of the military are training together in order to hone their tactics, techniques and procedures associated with defensive counter-air, close-air support, air interdiction of marine targets and personnel recovery missions.

Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni is supporting the evolution at Eielson Air Force Base with various components of personnel including Marines and sailors with Marine Aircraft Group 12 headquarters, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 , Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, and augmentees from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron such as the Provost Marshal's Office and Public Affairs. Additional Marines are also supporting from Marine Air Control Squadron 4 out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. Also from Futenma, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 is operating at Elmendorf Air Force Base. In all, approximately 290 Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force are participating.

"Northern Edge is MAG-12's best opportunity to get together with the Navy and Air Force to practice advanced tactics in missions that are similar to what we would have to do here in the Pacific area of operations," said Lt. Col. James Walker, MAG-12 operations officer. "We work with large forces here, 50 to 60 aircraft at a time, and that's not something we get to do on a daily basis. So, this is a good opportunity for MAG-12 to train in a tactical environment."

Although the event is headquartered out of Elmendorf Air Force Base, activities are taking place across the massive training grounds of Alaska in order to prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region.

According to Air Force Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, commanding general of Alaskan Command and 11th Air Force, being able to train here is valuable because there are more than more than 65,000 square miles of available training space over land, and 120,000 when including the Gulf of Alaska. This space includes Alaska's Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, Gulf of Alaska restricted air space, and an in-transit corridor connecting military training air space and live-fire training ranges.

"Northern Edge is the premier exercise conducted within the Pacific Command's area of responsibility," said General Atkins. "It lets our joint warfighters learn about each other."

Learning about each other, and the way the varying services operate is very important according to Air Force Maj. Lyle Dawley, Northern Edge exercise control team chief.

"Communication can be a big challenge," he said. "We don't always speak the same language whether we are on the ground or in the air."

That is something he said he hopes service members can learn from and take away from this exercise considering there are almost 5,000 service members participating in the exercise aboard ships in the Gulf of Alaska and approximately 2,000 who are here from other bases and stations across the United States, Japan and Korea.

Exercise Northern Edge is an 11-day exercise and is scheduled to conclude here June 26.