Celebrate sounds of freedom, welcome Northern Strike

Have you noticed more traffic in town the last couple of days?

Is the wait at your favorite restaurant a bit longer? What about some different languages being spoken on the street?

During this past week, visiting units from the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army, their Guard units, and their equipment began arriving in Alpena for Northern Strike 19, a training exercise that begins in earnest Monday and will include exercises across northern Michigan and into the Upper Peninsula.

The exercise strives to provide accessible, readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, and the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment, according to a spokesperson for the Air National Guard.

Participating in the exercise this year, which will run until Aug. 2, are active duty and Guard units from across the U.S., as well as international troops from Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Jordan. Parked at the airport are a huge variety of aircraft — everything from A-10s that residents often see in Alpena to F-16 fighter jets, B-52 bombers, Blackhawk helicopters, and large drones. There should be between 35 and 40 aircraft on the ground during the training.

Master Sgt. Jason Kinney from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center said that facility can house 1,100 troops, and every bed is accounted for right now. He estimated slightly over 1,500 people will participate in the exercise this year, which means that 400 of those are scattered in alternative housing around the region — everything from campers to motels.

As you hear the extra noise in the air these next two weeks, remember, it is the sound of freedom, and the training that needs take place to make our units the best-trained military in the world.

And make our guests feel welcome and wanted. Their presence is a big boost for all of us and our economy.