Combined training at CRTC

ALPENA – People in Northeast Michigan probably have noticed an increase in air traffic, specifically jets, over the last several days. Northern Strike combat exercises have been taking place at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.

One Thursday the base hosted its distinguished visitors day, which provided an inside, but limited, glimpse of some of the operations and logistics involved in Northern Strike. The training includes a collection of several branches of the military working together in war games-type scenarios, which include air to ground, air to air and air to water missions. Northern Strike is unique with a number of different combat units coming together to train together. Brig. Gen. Len Isabelle said the CRTC offers everything needed to conduct the training and help those involved learn to work together better as one.

“This exercise includes multiple branches of the U.S. military, as well as some of our coalition partners,” Isabelle said. “When we’re at war we need to function as one to achieve a common goal, but it is rare we get to train as a joint fighting force. Here we have air and ground forces, maritime elements, Army, Marines, just a diverse group of military organizations and it is difficult to get them together in one sport and Northern Strike does that.”

Isabelle said because of sequestration in Washington it is important for the military to spend its training allowance wisely and the CRTC helps it do that by providing everything needed to make sure the troops are comfortable when not training.

“The CRTC is designed to host units from other locations and bring them together to use all of its assets it has,” Isabelle said. “In this day of fiscal challengers we’re looking to have the same level of training, at less cost. The CRTC has the facilities to house, feed, and train our forces and it is a lot cheaper than going to Nellis Air Force Base, which is outside Las Vegas and having to pay to house the soldiers in hotels and feed them. You can imagine how much that costs.”

Lt. Gen. Joesph Lengyel said the CRTC is the perfect place to train. He said it provides housing, meals and different types of terrain to train in and could lead to more large scale training events in the future.

“I can tell you coming from Washington that future budgets are going to be tight and training is going to be tough, so I think there will be a quest to find the most efficient training one can do,” Lengyel said. “It only makes sense if you can do everything we need to do, use live ammo, airspace, have access to water and feed and house the troops, then it is natural that this place would stand out.”

Among those in attendance for distinguished visitor day were Gov. Rick Snyder and military officials from Washington.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at