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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2020

Planning begins for Northern Strike 21 exercise

By Senior Airman Tristan Viglianco Michigan National Guard

CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. – Since its inception in 2012, Northern Strike has grown into the nation's largest joint, reserve-component exercise. The initial planning conference for next year's iteration, Northern Strike 21-2, was held Nov. 3-5 at Camp Grayling, part of the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in Michigan.

"The initial planning conference is an opportunity for many of our rotational training units to come together with our planners and start building the framework for execution," said Army National Guard Master Sgt. Adam Fall, 631st Troop Command, Northern Strike knowledge manager. "We break into working groups, which allows for more focused discussion."

Fall said approximately 120 members of the Army, Air Force and Marines attended the conference.

The exercise is scheduled July 31 to Aug. 14, and planners expect more than 7,000 participants.

Units involved in Northern Strike will be able to utilize Camp Grayling's 147,000-acre training area and the Alpena Combat Readiness Center's 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.

"By coming to Northern Strike, people get to do their jobs, and they understand it is part of a bigger picture," said Army National Guard Master Sgt. David Howie, 631st Troop Command, Northern Strike senior operations NCO. "Allowing people at the bottom and top to see how it works is important. Everyone does their job to get a cannon in place or support a maneuver force, and it is awesome."

Many units that have attended Northern Strike in the past make attendance a priority and look forward to it every year.

"Northern Strike provides special operations forces the ability to interact and integrate with conventional forces," said Brian Satterlee, U.S. Special Operations Command realistic military training contractor. "This is our fourth year. The level of planning and missions we can accomplish while here keeps us coming back."

The exercise's purpose is to integrate a wide variety of capabilities in an all-domain environment. Different units from multiple branches and countries learn how to work together and become more effective, lethal warfighters.

"Northern Strike is an exercise that can sustain and build readiness," said Army Maj. David Bennett, deputy program manager of the National Guard Bureau's exportable combat training capability. "The big thing Northern Strike has is the joint-fires capability. Any deployment will most likely be in a joint environment. We need to have the ability to engage and train in joint operations."

Bennett believes training in an environment like Northern Strike provides is critical to defeat a near-peer adversary.

None of the extensive, critical training would be possible without the coordination at the initial planning conference.

"We can't execute an exercise without planning ahead of time," said Bennett. "The conference allows our staff to build out the exercise, look at our training objectives, and plan to meet our training objectives."



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