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CRTC creating a draw, officials say

News Photo by Julie Riddle Master Sgt. Jason Kinney answers questions from a crowd of interested Alpena residents at a update presentation Tuesday about the Alpena Combat Readiness Center.

ALPENA — A growing interest in Alpena’s resources and charm is evidenced in increasing use of the Alpena Combat Readiness Center, officials say.

At a presentation Tuesday night, leaders of the CRTC updated interested community members on the past year’s usage of Alpena’s combat training facility, highlighting the interest of military, law enforcement, FBI branches, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and other groups in training in Northeast Michigan.

CRTC Base Commander Col. John Miner told a mixed group of elected officials, law enforcement representatives, and interested residents — including one youth who indicated he is interested in a military career — that groups arriving at CRTC are surprised by what Alpena and the surrounding area have to offer in terms of resources, beauty, and hospitality.

A highlight of the past 12 months was the Winter Strike/Emerald Warrior exercise conducted in January, bringing over 500 trainees to Alpena for a first-ever winter extension of the annual Northern Strike exercises that take place in the summer.

Designed as an introduction to military maneuvers performed in winter conditions that might be encountered overseas, the exercise drew many people unfamiliar with Michigan winters, according to Master Sgt. Jason Kinney.

“Some of those guys have no idea how to use a snowmobile,” Kinney told the audience, describing a chilly training scenario of military-types shivering as they crept through northern woods and clomping inexpertly on snowshoes.

“There was a lot of falling down,” Kinney said of first-timer cross-country ski attempts. “But those dudes got right back up and kept going.”

Winter provided unexpected challenges to the military trainees, such as aircraft icing over, landing strips filling with snow, and an aircraft tire exploding just after landing, sending bits of metal and plastic flying.

“There was chunks of things sitting all over the runway,” Kinney told the audience.

Nonetheless, Alpena offered invaluable experience to soldiers preparing to defend their country overseas in countries where clear skies and ideal conditions simply won’t happen.

Since the Winter Strike exercises, Miner said, he has been getting a lot of phone calls from people intrigued by the possibility of using CRCT as a launchpad for their own winter training exercises.

The training center is busy and getting busier, the base commander said, with word starting to spread that Alpena offers not only a top-notch training facility, but also a desirable community.

“When people come up here, they’re blown away,” Miner said. “It has everything from facilities to the people to the community. It’s the package that is Alpena.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

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