Soldiers of the Michigan National Guard, active duty Soldiers from Camp Atterbury, Ind., Army Reserve Soldiers, U.S. Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guard, as well as soldiers of the Danish Home Guard worked with local agencies in Northern Michigan to complete exercise Arctic Eagle in late April.
Local agencies involved in the exercise included the Michigan Department of Energy, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Alpena County Sheriff’s Department, the Cheboygan County Sheriff’s Department, the City of Mackinaw Fire Department and Police Department and the Alpena Fire Department and Police Department.
“This was a great opportunity to break new ground with the Denmark government and their military forces, as well as some of the other partners that we haven’t work with yet, to discover the opportunities and synergies of working together toward a common goal,” said Col. Thomas Perison, installation commander for Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center.
The joint interagency intergovernmental multinational (JIIM) exercise was conducted in Mackinaw City, Rockport State Park, and Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center. With the Arctic Circle challenge in mind, the locations for the exercise in Michigan were based on similar locations in Prudhoe Bay and Barrow, Alaska.
The objective of the exercise was to control unit training at multiple locations, to collaborate with Department of Defense and foreign nation partners, to exercise joint communications, and to rehearse respond to threats to critical infrastructure.
The exercise supported the president and Department of Defense’s national strategy for the Arctic and was conducted in the current constrained fiscal environment without the expenditure of additional dollars.
Phase one of the exercise began in Mackinaw City where a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team, with support from a Washington Air Guard reconnaissance programming team, conducted hostile ship boarding and re-take control of the [distressed] U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. Evidence seized during that mission was turned over to local authorities.
In phase two, the intelligence retrieved from the ship boarding led agencies to Rockport State Park [Prudhoe Bay, Alaska]. Danish Home Guard forces moved against a mock terrorist base, with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 125th Infantry Regiment, Michigan Army National Guard, lending fire support from the high ground, in order to secure a shipping pier and a pump house containing bomb making materials and other intelligence.
“If we don’t train with our allied partners, we don’t train at all,” said Maj. Bo Hansen, commander of the Danish Home Guard. “We learn new doctrine, new tactics, as well as get to present ours so it sets us up for success with our allied partners when we deploy.”
During the final phase, intelligence gained from the port caused a U.S. Marine battalion to assist local law enforcement in securing key buildings at Camp Grayling’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility [Barrow, Alaska].
“One valuable lesson learned was how to operate joint communications between the services and up/down the chain of command,” said Perison. “That’s always a stretch – communications – and we successfully managed it over long distances, over a hundred miles in many cases, both ground-to-ground and air-to-ground. With very few hiccups, the communication network worked from day two. It worked consistently and we did not have a significant degradation or drop of the joint [communication] network. It’s exercising these skills, combined with other core missions, which demonstrate the National Guard’s operational capabilities. These were great take-aways. It’s something we’ll leverage in 2016 when we do this in real-time between Alaska and Michigan.”
The Michigan National Guard is in planning discussions with the Alaska National Guard, Alaska Command, and other service branches and local agencies for Arctic Eagle 2016.
For more Arctic Eagle photos and stories, please go to our DVIDS feature page.