NEWS | Aug. 12, 2021

Michigan Guard partner Latvia trains at readiness center

By Senior Airman Ryan Bishop, 110th Wing

ALPENA COMBAT READINESS TRAINING CENTER, Mich. – Firefighters from the Latvian National Armed Forces and the Estonian Defense Forces participated in the Northern Strike 21-2 training exercise in Michigan July 31-Aug. 14.

The Combat Readiness Training Center has areas specifically designed for fire training, including a simulated aircraft fire, road vehicle fires, and multi-story building fires. 

This multinational training environment enables units to learn from each other and improve skills. At the same time, U.S. forces can build stronger relationships with international partners and ensure they receive the same training as U.S. military personnel.

Training alongside international partners establishes confidence that U.S. missions abroad are supported by qualified personnel.

"It's a lot more cost-effective for our coalition partners to be trained up to a level of service than for us to deploy U.S. personnel to support our own aircraft," said Alpena CRTC Fire Chief Jeremy Wohlford. "We're helping them build their capabilities to be able to sustain if something were to happen."

Expanding the capabilities of U.S. forces abroad is important for continued mission success, and strong international partnerships allow the U.S. to heighten the deterrence and support capabilities of our allies.

The United States has worked with many countries through the State Partnership Program. Michigan's official partners through the SPP are Latvia and Liberia. Wohlford, working with multiple Air National Guard units throughout Michigan, has helped to build the Latvian National Armed Forces firefighter program from four firefighters to 34 since 2012.

"I think the program is really important because it's really helped us see the big picture when it comes to the Air Force," Wohlford said. "Over the years, working with our partners has been really rewarding."