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Air Force Featured Stories

Contingency response Airmen support exercise Northern Strike

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Carter
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 821st Contingency Response Group here recently participated in exercise Northern Strike at Grayling Army Airfield and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan.

Northern Strike is a large-scale exercise coordinated by the Michigan Army National Guard and features Army, Marines and Air Force working together for total force integration. It concludes Aug. 20.

"A few years ago, the Michigan National Guard decided to build an exercise to train its folks in order to prepare for an upcoming deployment," said Master Sgt. Jeffery Hollaway, the 821st CRG current operations superintendent. "With all of the different services kicking in, the exercise grew. Before long, it became a large-scale exercise with units active, Guard and Reserve participating."

With more than 5,000 participants from Michigan, Illinois, Latvia, Canada and Poland, among others, Northern Strike combines air and ground capabilities into a single exercise. It also includes various aircraft, such as the C-130 Hercules, A-10 Thunderbolt II, CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache and the UH-60 Black Hawk.

During the exercise, Airmen have a chance to work with rotary wing, turboprop aircraft and practice being outside of their comfort zones.

"When you are responsible for physically moving people and equipment from place to place, one missed planning detail or failure to understand a process has a ripple effect that can be hard to recover from or at least more work for your team," said Senior Master Sgt. Ricky Smith, the 921st Contingency Response Squadron superintendent and contingency response team chief. "This (training) allows for our Airmen to get outside of their normal functional area to learn and appreciate what their fellow teammates bring to the fight."

Northern Strike also provided the opportunity for 821st CRG Airmen to rehearse potential real-world situations by training with Army counterparts in cargo uploading and downloading on aircraft, aircraft engine running off-loads, communications, aerial port procedures and air traffic control.

With one team at Grayling Army Airfield and one at Alpena CRTC, the 821st CRG exhibited their capabilities by honing their skills as contingency response Airmen to provide communication, logistical and maintenance support, as well as airfield management.

"Operating in two locations at once is challenging, but it also provides more opportunities for officers and enlisted to lead people on the road," Smith said. "It also is very realistic for real-world missions where we could be operating at a main base and a forward operating base."