Thank you for a great Northern Strike

Friends and fellow citizens of Alpena,

With great pride, I can report that another successful Northern Strike exercise is now in the history books. With several innovative and groundbreaking advancements this year, Northern Strike 19 truly wrote new history, not only for the exercise, which continues to grow in scope and relevance, but for the entire U.S. Department of Defense, providing synchronized and integrated training to test our component players and NATO allies.

This year, more than 6,000 military personnel representing 20 U.S. states and territories, as well as seven partner nations, joined together from July 22 to Aug. 2 here at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center to conduct the largest joint, reserve-component readiness event in the nation. Alpena itself was host to numerous multinational partners, including visitors from Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Liberia, and Jordan.

For the Alpena CRTC, the marquee event of Northern Strike this year was hosting the Launch and Recovery Element (LRE) for the MQ-9 Reaper, a remotely-piloted aircraft.

We’ve had MQ-9s in our airspace before, but had never launched, flown and recovered them from the CRTC — or anywhere else in Michigan, for that matter.

That is the result of some amazing efforts on the part of our airmen to plan, schedule, and coordinate the MQ-9’s participation in the exercise, which brings another level to the complexity and effectiveness of Northern Strike. Having the MQ-9 on our ramp offered a prime opportunity to test interoperability and relationships that could be used to implement and expand the MQ-9’s employment in other life-protecting operations and partnerships, including work with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Our Northern Strike Community Day offered a great opportunity for some of our key community leaders and citizens to visit the CRTC for an up-close look at the inner workings of Northern Strike here in Alpena. The event, in its second iteration, continues to strengthen ties between the Michigan Air National Guard and the local community. We will continue to seek new avenues to strengthen those partnerships in the future.

I would personally like to thank the people of Alpena and surrounding communities for your graciousness in making Northern Strike 19 possible. Without your patience, support, and hospitality to our many guests, the training opportunity would not be possible.

We realize we can sometimes inconvenience the public, but the training our airmen receive at Alpena saves lives and creates effective warfighters in a fashion that would not be possible any other way.

Col. John Miner is commander of the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.