Scaled-back Northern Strike still draws hundreds
ALPENA — For the past two weeks, Alpena has been preparing people for war.
Coronavirus notwithstanding, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center is once again playing host to Northern Strike military exercises, held annually in northern Michigan since 2012.
Held at the recently-renamed National All-Domain Warfighting Center — composed of National Guard facilities in Grayling, Alpena, Rogers City, and the Upper Peninsula, and including a portion of Lake Huron — the yearly event offers military training in environments similar to those found during overseas missions.
“Northern Strike is unique because Michigan is unique,” said Major Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard. “We can train in a realistic military environment that is relevant for any type of threat that Russia, China, or any other opposing force would present to us.”
Usually involving 6,000 to 7,000 participants, this year’s exercises were limited by the coronavirus pandemic, drawing around 1,000 military members from around the country and from elsewhere.
About 200 people were quartered at the CRTC during the training, which began July 19 and ends Friday.
Fewer people were on the ground at CRTC than usual during the exercises as participants observed social distancing and other precautions, but the facility was used for pararescue training jumps and fire department training.
Some Northern Strike participants were also called into action fighting a structure fire that destroyed the historic John A. Lau Saloon in Alpena last week.
While the size of the exercises was reduced, those involved still received a high-quality experience that allowed them to meet their training requirements, said Capt. Andrew Layton, public affairs officer for the Michigan National Guard.
Northern Strike will, if the National Guard has their way, be back and at full strength once again next year, Layton said.
Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jriddleX.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Andrew Layton is a captain. His rank was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.