LANSING, Mich. –
The Final Planning Conference (FPC) for Northern Strike (NS) 21-2, one of the National Guard’s largest joint, readiness producing exercises, was held May 4-6, 2021, at Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center. The final touches were put on the plan to ensure a successful execution later this year.
“The planning is basically done at this point,'' said U.S. Army Master Sgt. David Howie, 631st Troop Command, NS senior operations NCO. “We are confirming all the training objectives and cross-walking the interdependence across the units. We are ensuring unit A is supporting unit B, so our military members can get the most out of Northern Strike.”
The importance of detailed planning is emphasized due to the joint nature of NS. This year’s exercise will feature participants from all three Army components, Air Force active duty and Guard, both Marine components, and the Navy Reserve. The exercise presents an opportunity for the various military branches to develop a broad understanding of each service’s capabilities. It also provides situations for the services to learn how to integrate in any given operational setting.
“We are going to go through and make any final coordination,” said U.S. Army Col. Bart Verbanic, NS land component officer in charge. “Some units will be performing reconnaissance and checking out terrain while they are here at the FPC. We also have rehearsals scheduled, which will help prepare us for execution later this summer.”
The exercise is scheduled for July 31 to August 14, 2021, at northern Michigan’s National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC). The NADWC maximizes combat readiness through the collection of Michigan’s unique environment and premier Air and Army training venues.
The FPC also brought the air and land component planners together for final integration to ensure NS enables both service specific readiness building and joint training requirements.
“The previous air planning conferences have not met with the land component,” said Matthew Trumble, NS air component program manager. “Michigan’s training airspace provides one of the most capable air/ground integration sites in the nation. The FPC ensures that we don’t miss a unit need or an opportunity for units to integrate at NS.”
This year's iteration will once again be multinational with expected participation of units from the United Kingdom, Latvia, Liberia, and Taiwan.
Planners are anticipating approximately 4,700 participants who will all have the opportunity to utilize the NADWC’s 148,000 acres of maneuver space and more than 17,000 square miles of special use airspace. The resources and capabilities of the training arena affords units a unique chance to increase readiness in an environment similar to real-world operations.
“It makes sense for units to come up to Alpena and Grayling to participate in Northern Strike,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Terrill, NS exercise director. “It [the NADWC] affords them the opportunity to get after some large-scale, sustainment, and tactical missions all in an effort to build readiness. Not even the National Training Centers can provide some of the training our participants are able to accomplish here during NS.”
Since 2012, the NS exercise program has grown and evolved to ensure the National Guard and Reserve components can overcome the challenges of an ever changing world. NS continues to be a tailorable, scalable and cost-effective readiness producer for the National Guard.
“As we work toward achieving joint-fires integration, Northern Strike requires adjacent units to work together to build their readiness,” said Howie. “All of the service members who come are required to do their job. Oftentimes during training at home station, not all of the jobs are required, but here at NS they get to perform their jobs in a realistic scenario.”