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NEWS | Jan. 14, 2022

The numbers say it all: Michigan is a premiere location for all-domain defense training

By Master Sgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

In 2021, the Michigan National Guard supported training requirements for more than 518,000 Department of Defense, federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel. Located in northern Michigan is the National All-Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC), comprised of Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, and in southern Michigan, Fort Custer Training Center. These premiere training centers have allowed military and coalition forces to train and replicate enemy capabilities and environments in support of the U.S. National Defense Strategy in a powerful way.

This figure quantifies how important Michigan’s training centers are to the development of critical functional and leadership skills, warfighting efforts, and increased readiness for state and global missions. With more than 155,000 acres of training grounds and 17,000 square miles of special use air space regularly utilized by services in the Department of Defense, the State Partnership Program, and civilian entities, the MING has more than 30 Michigan Army National Guard readiness centers, 9 maintenance facilities, and 3 Michigan Air National Guard bases scattered throughout the Great Lakes State. Additionally, the three MING training facilities sport ranges with varying capabilities from small arms fire, up to 500-pound bombs, and multiple aircraft throughout the air space.

“Fort Custer has more than 7,500 acres of training land for optimal training opportunities such as the leadership reaction course, Military Operations in Urban Terrain Sites, 15 ranges supporting various training requirements like live fire and demolitions,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jennifer McLean-Ellis, FCTC commander. “We also have 6 dining facilities, 5 land navigation courses, 6 helicopter landing zones, and 20,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline fuel points.”

“Our ranges support 9mm weapons up to 7.62mm weapons systems and the M203/M320 40mm grenade launcher. During the past year, we saw more than 1.1 million rounds of ammunition fired supporting units and all components within the U.S. military as well as federal and state law enforcement agencies,” she said.

With more than 10 tenant units and 1,575 bed spaces, Fort Custer billeted more than 352,000 personnel during Fiscal Year 2021.

“In the past year, we lodged more than 3,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel, 339,100 military personnel from all components of the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy, and more than 9,700 cadets,” said McLean-Ellis.

Further north is the National All-Domain Warfighting Center, comprised of Camp Grayling and the Alpena CRTC, and equipped with more than 148,000 acres of land and 17,000 square miles of special-use air space. The Alpena CRTC is one of four CRTCs located in the U.S., where its flight line and maintenance facilities provide a European NATO-type operating environment.

“The NADWC maximizes combat readiness by creating a joint training environment that allows for the joint force to focus on the employment of capabilities in all domains,” said Air Force Col. James Rossi, Alpena CRTC commander. “This enhances effectiveness and cooperation across the military services.”

With the vast amount of airspace available, combined with enough ramp space to support more than 20 large cargo aircraft or 60 smaller jets, aircraft controllers play an integral part in training success.

“Our air traffic controllers facilitated more than 4,000 aircraft training scenarios and more than 7,000 aircraft that utilized the special use airspace (in 2021),” said Rossi. “This allows aircrews across the National Guard, all branches of service, and our NATO ally aircrews to train, develop, and improve their skills so they can be ready for any potential future combat environment.”

The Michigan Merit Network will further advance the capability of the NADWC. This statewide cyber architecture uses existing fiber to connect the MING to industry and academia with the benefit of cyber range capability, eliminating geographical limitations and constraints to bring infrastructure together across Michigan’s installations and vast training space. The Michigan Merit Network is being leveraged to support NADWC operations, exercises, and Joint All-Domain Command and Control constructs.

“Connecting the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base (ANGB), the 110th Wing Battle Creek ANGB, the Alpena CRTC, and Camp Grayling into the Merit Network to form an improved reliable and redundant command and control connectivity backbone will support the MING’s NADWC activities,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Whitefoot, assigned to the Kelly Johnson Joint All Domain Innovation Center and NADWC, Joint Forces Headquarters, MING. “The expansion of the Merit Network will allow for not only a bi-directional but also a redundant communications architecture, greatly improving the State of Michigan's development, security, and operations and cyber range sandbox testing and experimentation capabilities.”

“This will significantly improve the MING's overall readiness and training capabilities and will keep the MING in a leading position for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community,” he said.

Further use of the NADWC is performed by the State Partnership Program (SPP). In 2021, the Alpena CRTC trained alongside Latvian forces for disaster response through a mutually beneficial relationship. The SPP hosts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals and also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.

“The experienced professionals at the CRTC fire department trained alongside Latvian National Armed Forces in live aircraft, structural, and munitions firefighting suppression and strategy,” said Rossi. “Overall, the Latvians received 25 continuing education credits in tiered training classes.”

The Alpena CRTC has been integral in joint functions, planning, deployments, and operational intelligence, which paved the path for its certification as a Joint National Training Center. Close by is Camp Grayling, which is the U.S. Army’s seventh-largest stateside base. Camp Grayling also received JNTC accreditation earlier this year.

“Over the past year, we hosted more than 19,000 active duty component service members and more than 92,000 reserve component service members,” said U.S. Army Col. Scott Meyers, commander of the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center. “With more than 148,000 acres of training grounds and 130 square miles of restricted airspace, we had 29 states that used our resources along with countries such as Great Britain, Latvia, and Liberia."

Like Fort Custer, law enforcement can often be seen on the grounds completing their training requirements.

“Camp Grayling supported 24 federal, state, and local law enforcement entities and had a combined 3,789 officials conduct their training requirements during the past year,” said Meyers.

Throughout the year, Camp Grayling ranges had more than 2,035,000 rounds expended. With the ability to handle up to 500-pound bombs and heavy weapons such as .50 caliber machine guns and the MK-19 grenade launcher, Grayling hosted several large-scale training exercises, the largest being Northern Strike.

“During Northern Strike 21, Grayling had more than 3,100 service members representing all 3 components from the Army, the active and Guard components of the Air Force as well as both Marine and Navy components,” said Meyers. “We had 51 units, 15 out of state units, and 4 foreign militaries here focusing on expeditionary skills, command and control, and sustainment and joint integrated fires.”

The northern Michigan climate provides opportunities to train in all four seasons.

“During the Northern Strike 21 winter rotation, we hosted 18 units with 5 being from out-of-state. The 600 plus personnel were able to train in a cold-weather joint environment,” said Meyers. “’Winter Strike’ provides participating units with a multi-domain cold, snow-covered operating environment that stresses equipment and personnel to proficiently operate in challenging terrain and extreme temperatures.”

If 2021 wasn’t busy enough, the Michigan National Guard is looking forward to an even busier 2022. As units continuously hone their skills with training and readiness exercises, the NADWC is scheduled to support a wide range of events including Northern Strike 22-1 (“Winter Strike”), Northern Strike 22, Cyber Shield, Agile Rage, and austere aircraft landings that support the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept.

“Michigan Army and Air National Guard training centers play a vital role in National Guard readiness and support Department of Defense initiatives,” said Meyers. “We plan to improve and expand our ranges, airspace and cyber capabilities to give the warfighter what they need—premiere training grounds and facilities.”