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NEWS | Jan. 28, 2022

Latvia-Michigan SPP partnership on display at Winter Strike

By Capt. Andrew Layton, Michigan National Guard

GRAYLING, Mich. – As ice, snow and wind blow across the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in northern Michigan, hundreds of military personnel from across the Department of Defense and allied nations are practicing tactics, training and procedures in extreme cold Jan. 21-30.

Among the participants in the Northern Strike 22-1 Winter Strike exercise: the Latvian National Armed Forces, returning to Michigan to refine skills developed in part through Latvia’s cooperation with the Michigan National Guard under the State Partnership Program (SPP). Since 1993, military personnel from Latvia and Michigan have trained together on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Over the past 29 years, an unbreakable bond has been forged between Michigan and Latvia. We are always excited to welcome our Latvian allies to Michigan, and this year’s ‘Winter Strike’ exercise is no exception,” said Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Having a close NATO ally like Latvia involved in this extreme cold-weather training is critically important to ensuring our combined forces are prepared to respond to any threat, anywhere at any time.”

Functioning as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers during ‘Winter Strike,’ Latvian personnel oversee the synchronization of fires between air and ground forces training across the NADWC’s sprawling range complex. This includes coordination with A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from the 69th Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

Winter Strike and the NADWC serve as an efficient way for units to train in conditions similar to those found above the Arctic Circle. The exercise allows training audiences to build readiness in a demanding cold-weather environment while supporting joint, all-domain operations.

“The participation of Latvia in ‘Winter Strike’ is another great and valuable training opportunity,” said Lt. Gen. Leonīds Kalniņš, chief of defense of Latvia. “By training side by side with our friends from the Michigan National Guard – our steadfast allies – we become stronger and more capable, enhancing interoperability and capability to conduct joint operations.

“The U.S. is a trusted long-term partner of Latvia, which has played a strategically important role in strengthening Latvia’s and Baltic regional security over the years,“ Kalniņš said. “We, National Armed Forces of Latvia, are immensely proud and grateful for our longstanding partnership.”

Other allies and partners, including Bulgaria, Estonia, Liberia, Lithuania, Poland and the United Kingdom, have joined Latvia for past Northern Strike exercises. Latvia also plans to participate in Northern Strike’s summer 2022 exercise Aug. 5-19.

“We truly appreciate the enduring participation of Latvian military personnel in the Northern Strike exercise series,” said Rogers. “Latvia always brings a high level of professionalism and proficiency that raises the quality of training here at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. We could not be prouder of our rich cooperation with Latvia that continues to demonstrate its value each year.”

The National Guard Bureau sponsors the exercise.