Michigan National Guard
Story by Senior Airman Tristan Viglianco
For nearly a decade, Michigan’s Northern Strike exercise program has become one the largest readiness producing exercises for the National Guard and other reserve components. The exercise focuses on joint all-domain training while also presenting an opportunity for defense industry partners to test emerging technologies for the future war fight. The Middle Planning Conference (MPC) for Northern Strike (NS) 21-2’s land components, was held Feb. 9-11 at Fort Custer Training Center, Michigan.
“The Middle Planning Conference is where we are developing drafts for exercise matrixes, resources plans, and sustainment,” said Army Maj. Randy Knowles, Northern Strike land component operations officer, Michigan National Guard. “We break into smaller working groups where subject matter experts in the field solve issues and figure out how to implement the plans.”
According to Knowles, approximately 110 participants from multiple branches attend the conference. The event featured a myriad of COVID-19 mitigation measures designed to ensure participants' health such as social distancing, mask wearing, and temperature checks.
Late last year, the Initial Planning Conference for NS 21-2 was held Nov. 3-5 at Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center.
“The IPC was more broad brushstrokes such as figuring out intent, capabilities, and goals,” said Knowles. “The MPC is where we take the goals and plan to meet those.”
The copious amounts of planning are critical to ensuring the quality of the Northern Strike exercise series.
“The planning is built on a crawl, walk, run style,” said Army Capt. Jason Peterson, Northern Strike land component lead signal planner, Michigan National Guard. “Each of the planning conferences has a new level of involvement and integration. During the Final Planning Conference we want to be at the run stage, so we are ready to execute. All of the planning ensures success.”
The plans team already oversaw a successful iteration at this year’s winter iteration Northern Strike 21-1/”Winter Strike 21,” which took place Jan. 23-29. The summer iteration, Northern Strike 21-2, is scheduled for July 31 to August 14 and planners are anticipating more than 4,000 participants.
Units involved in Northern Strike will be able to utilize the unique resources offered at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center, which includes Camp Grayling's 147,000 acre training area and the Alpena Combat Readiness Center’s 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.
Northern Strike’s purpose is to integrate a wide variety of capabilities in an all-domain environment. It is designed to increase readiness for units involved, so they are able to perform joint, multinational operations.
“Our goal is to improve unit readiness on the green and blue side,” said Knowles. “Northern Strike offers a chance for the National Guard to work in a complex environment. By allowing commanders and units to integrate joint-fires we benefit the whole DoD, which is something we are proud of.”