LANSING, Mich. –
Since 2012, Michigan’s Northern Strike (NS) exercise series has grown into one of the largest multi-domain, joint readiness producing exercises for the National Guard and other reserve components. Ensuring the success of the exercise requires rigorous planning and coordination facilitated by the NS planning team.
The team recently hosted the final planning conference (FPC) for the winter iteration, NS 22-1, and the initial planning conference (IPC) for the summer iteration, NS 22-2, at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
“The IPC is to start the planning process between all of the rotational training units and the plans cell,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Adam Fall, NS operations non-commissioned officer (NCO) with the Michigan Army National Guard. “The parties all come together with the initial estimates of what they are going to train, how they are training, and where they train.”
“The FPC is ensuring everything is locked-in place prior to executing the exercise, including training requirements, logistical needs and communications demands,” he continued.
NS 22-1, known as “Winter Strike,” is scheduled for January 21 to 30 and NS 22-2 will take place August 6 to 20 at northern Michigan’s National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC).
The exercise series features units from all the nation’s service branches and their different components. The joint nature of the exercise, in addition to international partners who also participate, is designed to replicate an expeditionary environment to which units may deploy in the future.
“Northern Strike is a readiness building exercise focusing on joint integrated fires,” said U.S. Army Maj. Randy Knowles, NS operations officer. “We focus on training in a joint environment so we are able to exploit all the talents and skills of the different participants to ensure future operational success.”
The attendees will have access to the NADWC’s 148,000 acres of maneuver area and 17,000 square miles of special use airspace. The training venue also boasts extensive training capabilities commanders can utilize to simulate what operations against a near-peer adversary might be like. These include replication of electronic warfare, the use of joint-threat emitters, and drone technology.
The units attending NS 22-1 in January will have the extra challenge of overcoming northern Michigan’s subarctic conditions, which can include temperatures dipping into the single digits.
Last January, the 120th Field Artillery Regiment, Wisconsin Army National Guard, attended NS 21-1, and was able to experience the snowy operating environment first-hand.
“Winter Strike gives us a better understanding of how to operate in the winter environment” said Army Staff Sgt. Graham McFarland, 120th FA Regt., section chief. “Learning how to operate in a cold weather environment includes living, dressing, and working with our equipment in the cold.”
Two of the major players for the upcoming summer iteration are the National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the Marine Corps Reserve Combat Logistics Regiment 4, which will bring an emphasis on large maneuver forces operations and sustainment to the exercise.
“We have a large-scale exercise planned,” said Knowles. “We have a lot of large players coming to train and we are excited to see how the integration pans out.”
Planning the exercise is a year-round process and the plans team works hard to ensure training objectives are met.
“Every Northern Strike is unique,” said Fall. “We are very customer oriented and do whatever we can to provide an exercise that allows visiting units to focus on their training requirements.”