Michigan National Guard EM, CST, and MRBC exercise emergency operations in the Straits of Mackinac

Soldiers aboard a 130 foot ribbon bridge from the Michigan National Guard 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company and staff aboard a Shepler’s Ferry® boat work together during Operation Shining Star, Sept. […]

Soldiers aboard a 130 foot ribbon bridge from the Michigan National Guard 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company and staff aboard a Shepler’s Ferry® boat work together during Operation Shining Star, Sept. 23, 2017. OSS is an emergency management exercise in the Straits of Mackinac that brings together state, federal, community and civilian participants to rehearse emergency operations. (Michigan National Guard photo by Scott Martzke)

Story written by Angela Simpson, Michigan JFHQ Public Affairs

ST. IGNACE, Mich. — The wise words of USNORTHCOM Commander, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby at the start of the 2012 Maryland Domestic Preparedness Workshop have never been more true, “effective emergency preparedness requires a whole-of-government, whole-of-community approach. No one person or agency can do this alone – it takes a team to meet the deservedly high expectations of our citizens.”

Echoing the sentiment, then Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley added, “Partnerships are what make the National Guard who we are; partnerships with parent services and other government agencies, foreign nations, state and local authorities and civilians are the key to a coordinated rapid response when a no-notice catastrophe occurs.”
Michigan National Guard Emergency Management Program Coordinator, Scott Martzke documented many of these partnerships in action last weekend as Michigan National Guard teams trained with the Mackinac County Sheriff, Mackinac County Emergency Management, Chippewa Central Dispatch, Mackinac Marine Response, U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan State Police Marine Services Team, several state emergency management officers and civilian ship Captain Billy Shepler, whose Shepler’s Ferry® boats cart about 500,000 travelers across the Straits of Mackinac each year.

“Coordinated command, communication and collaboration are essential in times of emergency,” Martzke said. “Training and preparation are crucial, so that when disaster strikes, loss-of-life, injury, and property and environmental damage can be mitigated as much as possible as fast as possible.”


Soldiers aboard a 130 foot ribbon bridge from the Michigan National Guard 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company and staff aboard a Shepler’s Ferry® boat work together during Operation Shining Star, Sept. 23, 2017. OSS is an emergency management exercise in the Straits of Mackinac that brings together state, federal, community and civilian participants to rehearse emergency operations. (Michigan National Guard photo by Scott Martzke)

The exercise scenario, called Operation Shining Star, was coordinated by the Michigan National Guard, 51st Civil Support Team. OSS simulated the suspected contamination of a ferry boat and crew with an unknown hazardous material of radiological origin. The mainland footprint, based at the St. Ignace Public Boat Launch on the southern tip of the Upper Peninsula, was managed by Mackinac County Emergency Management director Mike Kasper as Incident Commander with support from the MING 51st Civil Support Team and the 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company. A forward element of the 1437th operated from the ribbon bridge they launched from St. Ignace and erected in the waters of the Straits. The sturdy, 130 foot floating Ribbon Bridge, or “IRB”, Improved Ribbon Bridge, provided a working platform large enough to accommodate the oversized CST ambulance, set up a decontamination corridor, support a survey entry team and all of their equipment, and accommodate a mobile operations section. On-the-water security and support was provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan State Police Marine Services Team, and Mackinac Marine Response.

“CST Soldiers appreciate these training opportunities,” said Operations Officer Capt. Andrea Kennedy. “Not only do these exercises give them additional experience using their equipment [as opposed to simulation settings] but they give our team interaction time with other teams who would likely be called upon during emergencies. The familiarity and friendships formed during these exercises translates into a faster, more effective response when it really counts. Then add all the cross-training benefits from working with members of the Ohio CST on this exercise, and readiness improves even more. OSS is definitely a preparedness win for everyone involved.”

“The 1437th sets up the floating bridge whenever we can,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ann Dailey, the 1437th’s full-time readiness noncommissioned officer and a member of the unit for more than 20 years. “It [the IRB] and our other bridges have been erected all over the world, and our crews are the best in the nation. We draw curious crowds wherever we go and people are impressed when they see and learn about the many ways they can be used.”


On left, Sgt. JaBerry Smith, Survey Team Member, 51st Civil Support Team (Michigan National Guard) and Sgt. Riley Turner, Survey Team Member, 52nd Civil Support Team (Ohio National Guard) prepare for entry into a simulated hot zone, in this case a Shepler’s Ferry® boat, during an emergency management exercise called Operation Shining Star, that took place Sept. 23, 2017, in the waters of the Straits of Mackinac that join the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. Members of the Ohio CST trained with the Michigan unit as the neighboring states might when activated for a live response mission. OSS is an emergency management exercise that brings together state, federal, community and civilian participants to rehearse emergency operations. (Michigan National Guard photo by Scott Martzke)

Partnership-building emergency management drills and a variety of Michigan National Guard training exercises, including the 51st CST and the 1437th MRBC are routinely scheduled. Several exercises are already being planned for 2018 and beyond in the Upper Peninsula and waters of the Great Lakes.

For more information about OSS or any Michigan National Guard training exercise, please contact the Michigan National Guard public affairs office, (517) 481-8141 or visit minationalguard.com.

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