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Northern Strike returns

Military training exercises begin July 22 at base

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz At the Alpena Township Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center Master Sgt. Jason Kinney gives a preview of the upcoming Northern Strike training exercises that will take place in the coming weeks. He said aircraft will begin mock missions on July 22 and many different types of jets and helicopters will do drills. Most of the on-the-ground activity will be done out of the public’s eye, he said.

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — It’s not unusual to see military helicopters and jets buzzing around the sky in the Alpena area when the military trains at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, but, from July 22 to Aug. 3, there will be a significant increase in aircraft activity as Northern Strike 19 training begins at the base.

Each summer, the CRTC hosts military units from around the globe to conduct high-intensity training on land and in the air at several locations in northern Michigan. Air drills will be conducted high above the ground in many areas, but live ammo bombing drills will be limited to Camp Grayling.

At Monday’s Charter Township of Alpena Board of Trustees meeting, Master Sgt. Jason Kinney shared what people can expect from the training.

Kinney said that, beginning Monday, advance teams will begin arriving and getting the base ready for the arrival of the troops. Then, on July 22, the first aircraft will begin flying. Northern Michigan residents will be able to hear and see many of those aircraft between 8 a.m. and midnight, though some of the training days will not include any flights. This year, there will be no ground drills in Alpena.

In his presentation, Kinney said there A-10, F-16, and B-52 jets, as well as Blackhawk helicopters and large drones, will run simulations during Northern Strike. Units from the U.S., Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Jordan will train this year, as well as soldiers, sailors and airman from NATO.

At its peak, about 1,500 military personnel will be training at the base, Kinney said. In years past, some exercises were carried out in populated areas, but that won’t be the case in 2019. Kinney said that, because the troops will be in town for as long as two weeks, they will be visiting local businesses and interacting with residents, but people should not be alarmed.

“You’ll be seeing more military personnel coming into town, but they are told to wear civilian attire and to try not to freak out anybody,” Kinney said. “We will not be doing any operations in Alpena. In the past, we had guys running around downtown pretending it’s being overrun by an enemy, but, this year, everything we will be doing will be secluded from the public eye, but you will see a lot more people, some of which will speak different languages. But, please, understand they are here for us and not the Russians invading.”

Kinney said the base takes the privacy of residents seriously and officials are taking steps to limit disturbances. Still, he said, “there is going to be a lot of noise.

“We try to minimize that by having flight routes that try to avoid the towns,” he said, “but there will still be helicopters flying and some planes around. All of our fixed-wing aircraft will be flying above 6,000 feet and shouldn’t be a factor unless they are taking off or landing.”

Besides being a benefit to the base, Northern Strike is also a plus for the Northeast Michigan economy. Kinney said there could be as many as 400 people staying in local hotels who will spend money on food, entertainment, gas, and other items.

Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce President Jackie Krawczak said having more than 1,000 additional people in town over the course of the two weeks is important to local businesses.

“There is always overflow from the base that comes into Alpena and it fills our hotels and have nights where they go out and spend money and enjoy their time here,” Krawczak said. “The nice thing about this event is the length of it. You have people coming here for two weeks and that adds increased value to the community because there are all types of ways they are spending their money.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.