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NEWS | Aug. 6, 2021

Grayling MATES attracts WV Field Artillery Regiment

By Staff Sgt. Tristan D. Viglianco Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center’s 147,500 square foot Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) is critical for storing and maintaining military equipment housed at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC). The storage space, training opportunities, and expertise of the Michigan National Guard’s MATES staff offers unique options for units from other states to house their equipment in preparation for training.

Following their participation in Northern Strike (NS) 21-2, the 1st Battalion, 201st Field Artillery Regiment (1-201st FA BN), West Virginia Army National Guard (WVARNG), plans to utilize the MATES and house their 12 M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzers.

“We are receiving a majority of the battalion’s equipment density, which includes their auxiliary equipment,” said Lt. Col. Erick Schramm, Combined Surface Maintenance Office surface maintenance manager. “They will keep some equipment in West Virginia for natural disaster response and a few Paladins so they can train at home station.”

According to Schramm, some equipment was hauled via truck while the rest was shipped on a rail line, which runs through Camp Grayling. After completing some joint readiness training at NS 21-2, the 1-201st FA BN will transfer their equipment to the MATES staff.  

“We provide them [1-201st FA BN] space to park their Paladins and support vehicles at our facility,” said Capt. Peter Leeman, Camp Grayling MATES superintendent. “We will maintain them and do all of the necessary servicing. When they come up to Camp Grayling, they will use their equipment to train and before they leave, turn it back into us. We will perform any maintenance functions needed to make sure equipment is ready to go and mission capable for their next training.” 

In addition to alleviating the maintenance burden, transferring the equipment will benefit the 1-201st FA BN in numerous ways.

“Down in Virginia, where the Paladins were previously stored at Fort Pickett, they were being stored outside. Being able to put them inside and keep them out of the weather will lower the maintenance cost,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bill Crane, West Virginia National Guard adjutant general. “The range complex Michigan has up here allows our folks to come up and get right into training without having to transport this equipment to the training location.”

In the event of a deployment, the 1-201st FA BN would be able to easily ship the equipment from several deep-water ports in Michigan. From there, they can go through the Saint Lawrence Seaway to anywhere in the world.

The 148,000 acres of ground maneuver area already make Camp Grayling a desirable training location, but Leeman believes having the howitzers pooled there will make it even more attractive for units looking for training sites.

“Our mission is to establish a wide array of combat and combat support equipment," said Leeman. “Having out of state units that aren’t adjacent to Michigan as customers brings us to a national level.”

Leeman added that having Paladins in Michigan allows other units who have the same mission to utilize the equipment as long as they coordinate with the 1-201st FA BN. This saves those units time and money, making a trip to Northern Michigan’s NADWC easier and more cost effective than before.

In addition to the large amount of space located at MATES, its 125 cold storage bays, 20 of which are fitted with controlled humidity program systems, was a contributing factor in being selected to house the M109A6s.

“We have the second largest MATES in the country,” said Schramm. “It was built when we had multiple Armor battalions in Michigan, so since they've gone away our facility has been underutilized.”

While space, range availability, and training opportunities no doubt played a factor, the professionalism of the MATES staff also played a role in the WVARNG moving their equipment there.

“The customer support the team at Camp Grayling offers is outstanding,” said Leeman. “Before any of the decisions are made at the senior leader level people meet in person. We were able to show them what Michigan and Camp Grayling are all about and are excited to get to work with them.”