Cold-weather military readiness exercise returns to Northern Michigan, with precautions for COVID-19
MARQUETTE — Winter Strike, the Michigan National Guard’s cold-weather joint fires military readiness exercise, part of its signature Northern Strike exercise series, will return this year with precautions for COVID-19 in place.
The exercise will be held from Jan. 23-30 at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in the northern Lower Peninsula, which encompasses Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
“This exercise is unique because Michigan is unique,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general and director of Michigan’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Our success is based on the success, vibrance and energy of our communities, and on the premier All-Domain training our state has to offer.”
Officially identified by the National Guard Bureau as Northern Strike 21-1/ “Winter Strike,” the cold weather readiness event will be held for the second time as an addition to the Northern Strike exercise program that offers the Michigan National Guard’s unparalleled facilities as a venue for U.S. and coalition forces to receive advanced All-Domain joint fires training in all weather conditions.
“The Northern Strike exercise series is designed to challenge training audiences with multiple forms of convergence that advance interoperability across multicomponent, multinational and interagency partners,” said Rogers. “The exercise also presents an ideal opportunity for Army Futures and Defense Industry partners to test emerging technologies for the future warfight.”
During Winter Strike 21, training will focus on the synchronization of joint fires with field artillery from the Wisconsin National Guard, Marine and Army rotary wing assets, B-52 bombers from the Air Force’s active duty 5th Bomb Wing, Minot, North Dakota, and personnel from the West Virginia National Guard. Additionally, Air National Guard JTACs from New Jersey’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron and New York’s 274th ASOS, ANG A-10Cs from Selfridge, Michigan, as well as Marine Corps 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, are all slated to take part in the training event.
The National All-Domain Warfighting Center is home to nearly 148,000 acres of ground maneuver area, as well as the largest overland military operating airspace east of the Mississippi River. Last July, the Michigan National Guard safely hosted exercise Northern Strike 20 with a comprehensive public health plan that allowed the exercise to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, while safeguarding participants and local communities. Winter Strike 21 will similarly be held with robust precautions in place that incorporate COVID-19 guidance implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including mandatory mask wearing, frequent sanitization, social distancing and minimized indoor gatherings.
The Northern Strike exercise series is critically important to the local economy in Grayling and Alpena. It brings an average of 6,000-7,000 men and women from 20 states and numerous coalition countries to northern Michigan annually. In total, this delivers an average of $30 million to Michigan’s economy annually in military pay, travel and local spending in northern Michigan.
“Across all of our facilities, we are looking for opportunities to grow and advance our training environment here and we’re competing nationally for resources with every other state and territory for those federal resources,” said Rogers. “What we’re doing is attracting those resources through exercises like this and showing the value, from a national perspective, and then investing that in a meaningful way to continue to offer a great training environment for the future.”