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NEWS | May 10, 2022

Michigan National Guard supports Coast Guard, Federal, State and local agencies for Mackinac active shooter exercise

By Capt. Andrew Layton, Michigan National Guard

ST. IGNACE, Michigan – Scott Martzke believes in what he does. You can see it in his eyes.

As the antiterrorism officer (and former emergency manager) for the Michigan Army National Guard, his job is to predict the worst-case scenario and stop it before it happens. It’s a never-ending task, marked by endless hours of planning, drills, and exercises that are hopefully never needed.

From April 26-27, Martzke represented the Michigan National Guard at a full-scale area maritime security exercise called Straits Shield 22, led by the U.S. Coast Guard Sector, Sault Ste. Marie. Straits Shield validates local, state and regional response plans by simulating an active shooter aboard a ferry vessel to Mackinac Island, a popular summer tourist destination off the coast of Lake Huron.

“Exercises like this are the perfect opportunity to show what the National Guard brings to the table,” said Martzke. “We’re one of the biggest force multipliers for our state – we have our warfighting mission, but we can also go out and support that domestic operation, more than just notionally or with a plan. We can really do it.”

With both command post operations and live play at various landside and on-water locations, Straits Shield united more than 200 personnel from numerous agencies: federal representatives from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigations; Tribal Nation representatives; state agencies including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Mackinac Bridge Authority, as well as regional healthcare coalitions and numerous local and private organizations.

According to planners, a response of this magnitude demands a rapid flow of information to enable swift and efficient command and control. That’s where aviators from the Michigan Army National Guard’s 112th Aviation Regiment, Grand Ledge Army Aviation Support Facility, came in.

Hovering over the exercise area with a UH-72 “Lakota” helicopter, Guard members provided real-time situational awareness to decision makers on the ground using the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool (DAART).

“The idea is that we’re able to provide video as quickly as possible, not just for the National Guard, but for our civil partners as well,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mike Kauppi, operations and training officer for the 112th Aviation Regiment. “DAART allows multi-jurisdictional agencies to come together on a common platform that houses products, reports, task organization and alerts needed for command and control decision making.”

Public Affairs staff from the Michigan National Guard also supported the exercise’s Joint Information Center, which stressed the importance of timely and accurate flow of information to the public.

According to Mike Kasper, emergency manager for Mackinac County, events like Straits Shield are just as much about building teamwork across agencies as they are about demonstrating a robust response plan.

“We’ve proven that if any incident took place on a boat, we could muster and get a team together,” he said. “For all these great people here, it’s no longer just a phone number in a book, it’s a face and a relationship.”

Kasper has spent nearly five years planning Straits Shield with the United States Coast Guard Sector Sault port security specialist and he believes that in the end, the headaches have been worth it.

“As people come this summer to view our beautiful area, we can know we’ve done everything we can do to make them as safe as possible,” he said. “That’s a pretty good feeling.”