TERRE HAUTE, Ind. --
Three members of the Indiana Air National Guard, 181st Intelligence Wing, 113th Air Support Operations Squadron returned in early September from Exercise Northern Strike at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Mich.
"It is rare to have a Close Air Support specific joint combined live fire exercise with multiple coalition allies and representation from all five branches of service like those that were available at Northern Strike," said Master Sgt. Damon Girton, 113th ASOS Tactical Air Control Party member. "We can accomplish more in 11 days at an exercise like Northern Strike than during a typical quarterly training cycle due to the tactical level focus and support of all agencies involved."
113th ASOS TACP members controlled CAS missions employing live weapons from both fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, live surface-to-surface mortar Call-For-Fire missions with 60mm and 120mm systems and had the rare opportunity to qualify on most of the crew-served weapons in the US Army inventory.
"We were able to integrate with fire support specialists and JTACs from other ANG ASOS', Army National Guard, active duty Army, and active duty Marine Corps organizations to share tactics, techniques and procedures as we formed into multiple small-unit combat teams," said Girton. "This training venue is an opportunity to see how the rest of the ANG ASOS' do business and share training lessons as well as integrate directly with Fire Support elements to produce combined effects on the battlefield."
The exercise also featured an international flavor with a half-dozen Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from Lithuania and Canada participating in the exercise. In all, 29 different units from 16 states, plus the two international partners, participated in the exercise.
"We planned and executed 'war time' missions that resulted in air-assaults into target areas from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to control air strikes," said Girton. "We were also able to cross-train with the U.S. Coast Guard on Lake Huron and discuss interoperability of capabilities to support search and rescue operations in the U.S."
"As computer based simulation becomes a larger portion of military training each year, exercises like Northern Strike provide the real world, face-to-face interaction and realistic tactical level scenarios and stress necessary to continue to ensure effective Joint/Combined combat operations in the future." said LT Ed Shulman, 113th ASOS Tactical Air Control Party member. "The value and necessity of live fire-support training in dynamic venues cannot be overstated."
Northern Strike 2013 is an Air National Guard sponsored, two week long training exercise emphasizing joint and coalition air-to-ground missions, preparing personnel to conduct direct combat operations. The exercise allowed the various units to train on joint operations between air, land and sea organizations.