‘Northern Strike’ at Camp Grayling offers wide variety of training
Carlie Wilson | Staff Writer
As soldiers, we fight as a joint service. The first time we work, train, and plan with other services should not be when we go to war." – Master Sgt. Keenon Wallace.
More than 5,000 United States soldiers. Five branches of the U.S. military. Thirteen states, six coalition countries. Two weeks. From July 29 until August 12, the Michigan National Guard will be hosting “Northern Strike,” an event that allows members of each branch of the military to work together before they have to be called to action.
The two-week long drill block is designed to allow soldiers to “train as you fight.”
“As soldiers, we fight as a joint service. The first time we work, train, and plan with other services should not be when we go to war,” said Master Sgt. Keenon Wallace.
Camp Grayling spans close to 150,000 acres, “making it the largest National Guard training center in the country,” according to Michigan National Guard’s Camp Grayling website.
Unlike many camps in the United States, Camp Grayling is large enough to have multiple training areas, on base and off of the main base. Training sites have unique combinations of resources that provide a wide variety of training scenarios that meet real life challenges soldiers face during combat.
Northern Strike is one of a kind in the sense that all of the facilities are used during the two-week period.
In one particular area, groups of all five branches practice live fire, distraction tactics, air maneuvers, and bomb testing. Each drill is done in stages: blank fire, laser fire, and occasionally live fire.
On the live range, soldiers practice following maneuvers they would follow in war, using a scaled model of the map of Michigan to outline a course to follow. Soldiers are seen on land crawling through the woods, in air flying through the clouds, and above water dropping smoke bombs and other artillery.
Another facility houses classrooms where soldiers are taught field maneuvers and plans of execution. Inside the same complex is the repair unit where some soldiers are taught how to repair vehicles used both in training and in war.
In the last week of training, the capacity of this complex went from 70 people to around 18 people. At any given time, the population inside the building complex rises and falls depending on the training period.
In a separate area, soldiers spend multiple 24-hour periods in the woods, practicing laser-fire and remaining covert. The point of that exercise is to teach soldiers to stay awake for long periods of time and to remain silent at all costs.
“Getting hit with a laser bullet hurts, and reminds soldiers to stay in line, because if you make one wrong movement you’ll get hit,” said a soldier participating in Northern Strike.
On the same facility as covert training is mock-urban-town training. In these mock-cities, soldiers are trained to storm buildings and work as a team to eliminate enemies. The cities include buildings such as schools, houses, churches, hospitals, town-squares, any building regularly seen in an urban environment.
The buildings in the mock-cities feature pop-up enemies, trap doors, attics, basements, underground tunnels, and a variety of other possible threats. Each threat is designed to train the soldiers to be aware of their surroundings and learn to sense danger around them.
Northern Strike is a unique military training exercise because it combines air and ground combat drills into team focused training exercises.
According to Camp Grayling’s website: “Army ground forces participating in the exercise include infantry, artillery and signal units. The significant acreage Camp Grayling provides allows brigade-sized ground forces to maneuver freely while employing a variety of weapon systems.”
Some of the weaponry available includes “M-4 rifles, M240B machine guns, 60mm, 81mm mortars, and 155mm howitzers.”
Aircrafts are also used throughout the two-week period, including “the A-10, F-16, B-1, C-130, KC-135 and the JSTARS E-8C that provides an airborne, stand-off range, surveillance and target acquisition radar and command control center.”