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NEWS | July 22, 2021

Northern Strike returns to Northern Michigan

By Staff Reports Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

Northern Strike (NS) 21-2, one of the Department of Defense’s largest reserve component readiness exercises, is scheduled to take place across Northern Michigan July 31 to August 14.

Approximately 5,100 participants from various states and countries will converge at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) for training focused on expeditionary skills, command and control, sustainment and joint integrated fires. The NADWC encompasses the Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. The training area consists of 148,000 acres of maneuver space and more than 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.

“We are excited to once again host the annual Northern Strike exercise,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “This exercise serves as a great opportunity for our multicomponent, multinational, and interagency partners to develop into efficient, joint warfighters. Training like we may be called on to fight is critical in preparing to confront a near-peer adversary in the future.”

The Michigan National Guard (MING) began hosting NS in 2012 and it has since grown into a large joint, multi-national exercise program. The exercise provides participating units a chance to conduct robust and relevant scenario-based, full-spectrum readiness training and complete mission essential tasks. Michigan’s Northern Strike exercise is an Army and Air National Guard sponsored, Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) accredited exercise providing readiness-building opportunities for all services.

“Northern Strike is executed in complex field conditions designed to simulate a realistic wartime environment,” said U.S. Army Col. Bart Verbanic, NS land component officer in charge. “This tests visiting units' ability to partner and communicate effectively across coalitions and components.”

With participants exercising in all domains, the exercise focuses on a joint combined arms live-fire training that also emphasizes close air support, joint fire support, coordinated maneuver with fires, and air mobility including command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence of theater air-ground system in decisive action scenarios.

“What sets Michigan’s NADWC apart from all other training installations is the ability to build readiness capacity for all war fighting functions in a contested multi-domain training environment that enables joint integration at echelon,” Verbanic said.

This year’s exercise will feature participants from all three Army components, Air Force active duty and Guard, as well as both Marine and Navy components. There is also expected to be participation of units from the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Liberia.

In addition to the military participants, a contingent of attendees will be focused on innovation and technological improvements. Members of military research agencies and industry partners plan to address challenges across the spectrum of military operations including artificial intelligence, software and communication improvements, automated equipment, and space operations.

Similar to last year's exercise, MING medical officials have implemented a COVID-19 mitigation plan based on the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These countermeasures include social distancing, the required use of masks for non-vaccinated participants, and offering COVID-19 testing.

Beyond being an important National Guard Bureau (NGB) exercise, Northern Strike is critical to the local economy in Grayling and Alpena. On average, it contributes $30 million to Michigan’s economy annually in military pay, travel, and local spending.

The NS exercise program has grown and evolved over the past decade and continues to be a tailorable, scalable and cost-effective readiness producer for the National Guard.

“Planning and executing Northern Strike requires hard work, innovative thinking, and significant time investment from multiple military units and industry partners,” said Rogers. “Our hard work has set Michigan’s NADWC and the Northern Strike exercise apart as one of NGB’s premiere training destinations.”