Michigan National Guard
Story by Senior Airman Tristan D. Viglianco
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich.-- Northern Strike’s winter iteration exercise, known as Winter Strike, was held for the second time. After attending Northern Strike 20-2 last year, The Wisconsin National Guard’s 120th Field Artillery Regiment wanted more cold-weather, joint fires training this year at Northern Strike 21-1.
For the duration of their training, the Soldiers ate, slept and worked in the field at the Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center. They overcame wind, snow, and single digit temperatures, which are common conditions at northern Michigan’s National All-Domain Warfighting Center in January.
“We typically don’t shoot in the winter, so Winter Strike gives us a better understanding of how to operate in the winter environment” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Graham McFarland, 120th FA Regt., section chief. “Learning how to operate in a cold weather environment includes living, dressing, and working with our equipment in the cold.”
Despite the conditions, the artillery unit’s mission is still the same, deliver fire support from their M119 and M777 howitzers.
“The forward observers pick a target and they send that back to our fire direction center (FDC),” said McFarland. “The FDC does the calculations and sends it to the gunline. We take the round, load it up and send it down range.”
The joint environment the Northern Strike exercise series has become known for offering National Guard units the ability to enhance interoperability and better integrate their battlefield capabilities. This year the Soldiers were able to work with Marines and Airmen to integrate fire with A-10 Thunderbolts II and B-52 Stratofortresses.
“Being able to come here and do this type of training helps our Soldiers see the bigger picture,'' said Capt. Alexander Fhlug, 120th FA Regt., Alpha Battery commander. “Working with joint partners makes the training dynamic, more complex and complicated. When we get to synchronize our artillery fires with fire from the air it makes us a more lethal force.”
The benefits don’t just stop at the units who attend Winter Strike. Northern Strike exercises ensure our nation’s National Guard and Reserve forces are ready to meet the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy.
“Understanding capabilities and limitations increases our interoperability,” said Fhlug. “When we know how Marines, special forces, or our air partners fight we are able to increase our readiness and provide combat power to enable success.”
While it is only their second year participating in Winter Strike, the 120th FA Regt., sees it as a valuable part of their training.
“[Winter Strike] is a local opportunity to do something outside the norm,” said Fhlug. “We are able to stress our systems in the winter time. This allows us to see how we can be more effective in austere environments that can’t be matched anywhere else.”