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NEWS | June 29, 2021

Michigan National Guard hosts industry innovation challenge think tank

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

The Michigan National Guard (MING) held a two-day industry and military think tank, which facilitated collaboration on new ideas and to search for solutions to current challenges. The goal was to find mechanisms and partnering opportunities to increase capabilities within the National All Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) and use that data to solve real-world problems.

“Our goal is to create a lasting and healthy innovation capability for the Michigan National Guard and the defense industry at large,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. “Michigan’s military training areas provide unique opportunities for defense industry innovators to generate and test ideas that solve mutual complex problems.”

The purpose of hosting this event is to make Camp Grayling and the entire NADWC a destination for industry that allows them to collaborate, research and develop emerging technologies with military applications. This included partners with Camp Grayling and researchers from academia and industry who are exploring joint applications to advance multiple projects focused within the five domains of the NADWC, which are cyber, maritime, air, ground, and space.

“We want to be able to share technologies in order to advance both military and civilian applications,” said U.S. Army Col. Scott Meyers, commander, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center. “We know that industry has objectives that are complimentary to what the military needs, and through innovative partnerships we can enhance not only NADWC capabilities, but those of the Department of Defense.”

An example would be using advanced autonomous and robotic vehicles (ground and air) that could better serve commanders on the battlefield.

“Using advanced technologies, we could perhaps locate a service member who is lost or injured in hostile territory,” said Meyers. “The robot may be able to find the member, render aid, provide food and water, or pick up and evacuate the wounded.”

“The number of objectives technology companies can aid the military with is endless, but what Camp Grayling has to offer is the ability for them to experiment under low stress situations—design it, bring it to Camp Grayling, work with it, break it, fix it, and make it better,” he said.

As the largest joint maneuver training center in the National Guard, Camp Grayling itself offers 148,000 acres of training and experimentation space. Camp Grayling, which recently received joint certification making it just the third Army National Guard joint training facility to receive this certification, has 482 miles of training trails, ranges, lakes, rivers and an impact area that can sustain up to 500 pound bombs. The NADWC includes 17,000 square miles of special use air space in northern Michigan. This is the second largest overland restricted military airspace in the country and the largest east of the Mississippi River, which is owned and operated by the Michigan National Guard. The airspace extends over a portion of Lake Huron, blankets the NADWC, and is supported by three Michigan Air National Guard installations: the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, the 110th Wing in Battle Creek and the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

“These partnerships and new endeavors don’t just benefit Camp Grayling and its industry partners. The entire Grayling community and surrounding areas would benefit from us becoming the premier venue for developing technology and equipment.” said Meyers.

Investing in areas like Grayling and ensuring good paying jobs are available to those living here is critical to the state’s future economic success. Over the coming months more work will be done to identify ways the state can help facilitate these unique partnerships that will send a clear signal to those looking to invest in the region and the state.

“We’re hearing demands from industry, academia, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies and we need to make ourselves an incredible asset for them—this is an investment for all of us and a win for all of us long term,” said Rogers.

“There is huge opportunity for all of us right here at Camp Grayling and in the surrounding communities as we continue to evolve,” he said. “We will extract what we find here, take advantage of it, and turn it into the significant entity we think it is and make it more useful by industry, academia, and the warfighter.”