South shore Islanders may hear ‘kabooms’ from US military exercise

A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing, Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base, Ind., on the flight line during Northern Strike 19 at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich., July 21, 2019 (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht).

ALPENA, Mich.—Residents on the south shore of Manitoulin Island may have been hearing ‘kabooms’ from this week until August 2 during the 19th edition of Exercise Northern Strike at the Alpena, Michigan Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), an event that prompted many concerns from Island residents last summer after hearing loud bangs with no apparent source.

“This year, Northern Strike brings the familiar energy and excitement of combined live fire training in the US military,” said Col. John Miner, commander of the Alpena CRTC in a press release.

Exercise Northern Strike is a military readiness training exercise that has been hosted annually at Michigan-based National Guard facilities. Its mission is to ensure National Guard troops are prepared for as many scenarios as possible. The joint nature between the countries helps to save money on the exercise and foster cross-border collaborations.

The exercise involves troops from the US, UK, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Jordan. There are an estimated 5,700 soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines participating from the US forces alone.

At the event, a number of military aircraft are scheduled to be used in the exercise, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-16C Fighting Falcon, C-130 Hercules, MQ-9 Reaper, KC-135 Stratotanker, E-8C joint STARS, Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182, B-1B, B-52H and EA-18. Rotary aircraft (helicopters) include the UH-60 Blackhawk, AH-1W Super Cobra, CH-47 Chinook and the UH-1Y Venom/Super Huey.

Members of Company D, 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment, Puerto Rico National Guard, participate in readiness drills at Carmeuse Calcite Quarry, Rogers City, Mich., July 21, 2019, during Northern Strike 19 (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Gary Leonard).

At the live strike exercise, participants will be firing small arms, mortars, artillery and aerial munitions at a range complex, as well as simulated-fire exercises at a quarry in Rogers City. A new exercise for this year is the launch and recovery of an MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft.

Alpena CRTC has hosted Exercise Northern Strike for eight of its 19 years. Col. Miner acknowledged the support of the surrounding area in making such a large-scale event a success.

“Without community support, this training opportunity would not be possible,” he said. “We realize we can sometimes inconvenience the public, but the training our airmen receive at Alpena saves lives and creates effective warfighters in an environment that would not be possible any other way.”

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief from the 238th Aviation Regiment, Delaware National Guard, flies a training mission over Rogers City, Mich., July 21, 2019, as part of exercise Northern Strike 19 (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton).

Last summer, The Expositor reported on the unknown ‘kabooms’ coming across the water. These were likely from munitions training over the restricted waterspace in Lake Huron just off Alpena. That area has had its restricted designation since the Second World War.