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News | Jan. 28, 2022

Latvia-Michigan partnership succeeds again at “Winter Strike”

By Capt. Andrew Layton Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

As January ice, snow and wind blows across the National All-Domain Warfighting Center in northern Michigan, hundreds of military personnel from across the Department of Defense and allied nations are practicing tactics, training and procedures in these extreme cold weather conditions. The event is called Northern Strike 22-1 (“Winter Strike”), a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise held from January 21-30, 2022 at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich., which together comprise the NADWC.

Among the exercise participants are personnel from the Latvian National Armed Forces, returning to Michigan to refine skills developed in part through Latvia’s cooperation with the Michigan National Guard under the State Partnership Program (SPP). Since 1993, military personnel from Latvia and Michigan have trained alongside one another on both sides of the Atlantic to increase their mutual capability and interoperability.

“Over the past twenty-nine years, an unbreakable bond has been forged between Michigan and Latvia. We are always excited to welcome our Latvian allies to Michigan and this year’s ‘Winter Strike’ exercise is no exception,” said Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “Having a close NATO ally like Latvia involved in this extreme cold-weather training is critically important to ensuring our combined forces are prepared to respond to any threat, anywhere at any time.”

Functioning as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers during ‘Winter Strike,’ Latvian personnel oversee the synchronization of fires between air and ground forces training across the NADWC’s sprawling range complex. This includes coordination with A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan and B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from the 69th Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.

The NADWC is equipped with more than 148,000 acres of land and 17,000 square miles of special-use air space, which is comparable to the Air Force’s Nellis Range complex in Nevada. Alpena CRTC is one of four CRTCs located in the U.S., while Camp Grayling is the U.S. Army’s seventh-largest stateside base.

Winter Strike and the NADWC both serve as a cost and time-effective way for units to train in conditions similar to those found above the Arctic Circle. The exercise allows training audiences to build readiness in a demanding cold-weather environment while supporting joint, all-domain operations.

“The participation of Latvia in ‘Winter Strike’ is another great and valuable training opportunity,” said Lt. Gen. Leonīds Kalniņš, Chief of Defense of Latvia. “By training side by side with our friends from the Michigan National Guard – our steadfast allies – we become stronger and more capable, enhancing interoperability and capability to conduct joint operations. The U.S. is a trusted long-term partner of Latvia which has played a strategically important role in strengthening Latvia’s and Baltic regional security over the years. We, National Armed Forces of Latvia, are immensely proud and grateful for our long-standing partnership.”

Other allies and partners including Bulgaria, Estonia, Liberia, Lithuania, Poland, the U.K, and others have joined Latvia for past Northern Strike exercises. Latvia also plans to participate in Northern Strike’s summer 2022 exercise, scheduled for Aug. 5-19, 2022.

“We truly appreciate the enduring participation of Latvian military personnel in the Northern Strike exercise series,” said Rogers. “Latvia always brings a high level of professionalism and proficiency that raises the quality of training here at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. We could not be prouder of our rich cooperation with Latvia that continues to demonstrate its value each year.”