LANSING, Mich. –
Providing emergency support to Northern Strike (NS), the National Guard Bureau’s largest annual exercise, is no small task. In order to meet these demands, the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center (CGJMTC) leans on their partners from the Frederic Township Fire Department (FTFD).
Although the relationship between Camp Grayling and the FTFD dates back nearly 60 years, since 2019 the department has been under contract to provide support to the installation. This includes supporting day-to-day operations, state annual training, and two yearly NS iterations.
“We provide structural firefighting protection, HAZMAT, water rescue, confined space rescue, and EMS to Camp Grayling,” said Capt. Allen Ballard, FTFD public information officer. “Working with the base allows us to test our abilities and showcase the talent of our team.”
According to Ballard, the FTFD does three drills a month to ensure the readiness of their personnel. One of the most recent drills was the Northern Strike Pre-Accident Plan Rehearsal, which consisted of a downed aircraft at the Grayling Army Airfield.
“Knowing how to interact with the military and the airfield itself is critical,” said Ballard. “If we understand the procedures necessary during a simulated exercise, this will help us respond more efficiently and effectively during a real-life event.”
Training for the department is often integrated into NS and stresses coordination between the FTFD and military firefighters across all the branches and their components. NS 22-2, the most recent iteration, ran from Aug. 5 to 20 and featured approximately 7,400 participants, making it the largest one to date.
“The support we receive from the Frederic Township Fire Department is critical for us,'' said Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lee Fuller, NS plans team safety director, “They bring local knowledge and capabilities that ensure our participants have a safe place to train and build readiness.”
NS has grown into a critical piece of Northern Michigan’s economy bringing in approximately $30 million. However, the FTFD sees their partnership with the CGJMTC and support for the exercise as beneficial in a myriad of ways.
“The training we receive working with the base helps us to be better able to respond to events within the local community,'' said Ballard. “There are certain things that the military does that you would not be trained on in the civilian world. It is fun training with real-word applications.”
“This also helps with recruiting for us,'' continued Ballard.'' We hired two more people because they saw all the specialized training we get to take part in.”
Mike Novak, a FTFD firefighter/EMT, can attest to this. Novak travels from the Midland area, in part, due to the opportunities available through NS and Camp Grayling.
“It is just never a dull moment around here,” said Novak. “Whether it is training or the drills, as tiring as they may be, it is fun.”
“I love getting to work around the military,” continued Novak. “My dad was in the military, so I grew up around it. Getting to be around stuff I find interesting every day is cool.”