Story by Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco
Michigan National Guard
Since its inception in 2012, Northern Strike has grown into our nation’s largest joint, reserve-component exercise. The initial planning conference (IPC) for next year’s iteration, Northern Strike 21-2, was held Nov. 3-5 at Camp Grayling, part of the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in Michigan.
“The initial planning conference is an opportunity for many of our rotational training units to come together with our planners and start building the framework for execution,'' said Army National Guard Master Sgt. Adam Fall 631st Troop Command, Northern Strike knowledge manager. “We break into working groups which allows for more focused discussion.”
According to Fall, approximately 120 participants from the Army, Air Force and Marines attended the conference. In an effort to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the event implemented various mitigation measures.
The exercise is scheduled for July 31 to August 14 and planners are anticipating more than 7,000 participants.
Units involved in Northern Strike will be able to utilize Camp Grayling's 147,000 acre training area and the Alpena Combat Readiness Center’s 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.
“By coming to Northern Strike, people get to do their jobs and they understand it is part of a bigger picture,” said Army National Guard Master Sgt. David Howie, 631st Troop Command, Northern Strike senior operations NCO. “Allowing people at the bottom and top to see how it works is important. Everyone does their job to get a cannon in place or support a maneuver force and it is awesome.”
Many units, which have attended Northern Strike in the past, make attendance a priority and look forward to it every year.
“Northern Strike provides special operations forces the ability to interact and integrate with conventional forces,” said Brian Satterlee, U.S. Special Operations Command realistic military training contractor. “This is our fourth year. The level of planning and missions we can accomplish while here keeps us coming back.”
The exercise’s purpose is to integrate a wide variety of capabilities in an all-domain environment. It is designed to teach different units, from multiple branches and countries, how to work together and become more effective, lethal warfighters.
“Northern Strike is an exercise that can sustain and build readiness,” said Army Maj. David Bennett, National Guard Bureau Exportable Combat Training Capability deputy program manager. “The big thing Northern Strike has is the joint-fires capability. Any deployment will most likely be in a joint environment, we need to have the ability to engage and train in joint operations.”
Bennett believes training in an environment, like the one Northern Strike provides, is going to be critical for our nation to defeat a near-peer adversary.
None of the extensive, critical training would be possible without the coordination that occurred at the IPC.
“We can’t execute an exercise without planning ahead of time,” said Bennett. “The conference allows our staff to build out the exercise, look at our training objectives, and plan to meet our training objectives.”