Since 2012, Northern Strike, the National Guard Bureau’s largest joint, multi-component exercise, has been held at the pristine training grounds of Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center. This year, those facilities are being christened the National All-Domain Warfighting Center, a fitting nod to the unique capabilities and integral support these locations in Northern Michigan contribute to the U.S. National Defense Strategy. While this terminology may sound every bit as complex as the synchronized art of calling in an airstrike from a blazing-fast A-10 Thunderbolt jet, the heart of Northern Strike comes down to one thing: teamwork.
By definition, Northern Strike is a decisive action, joint collective training event. Participants increase Mission Essential Task proficiency in synchronizing Joint fires with ground maneuver elements through repetitious execution of task iterations at echelon. This is accomplished over four-season terrain sets more consistent with the anticipated future operating environment, set over 13,500+ square miles of special use airspace and integrated within nearly 148,000 acres of maneuver training area, 4.3 square miles of artillery impact area and 17 square miles of inert impact area.
While Northern Strike’s primary training audience consists of Army National Guard Infantry Brigade Combat Teams with their organic, direct-support field artillery battalions merged with aligned Air National Guard Air Support Operations Squadrons, the exercise has routinely attracted as many as 6,000 to 7,000 personnel from all service components and more than 20 U.S. states. Numerous coalition partners including NATO forces from countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have also attended, bringing a dynamic that takes the interoperability between multicomponent, multinational, and interagency partners to the next level. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Strike planners have partnered with public health officials to build a comprehensive plan that allows the exercise to carry on its mission.