News: Atterbury hosts Exercise Northern Strike
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scotten
EDINBURGH, Ind. - The Indiana National Guard is organized as a joint force comprised of Air Force and Army components. It is not often, however, that these two components have the opportunity to train jointly and combine capabilities. This week, Air and Army National Guard components had the opportunity to do exactly that at Atterbury during exercise Northern Strike.
Northern Strike is an exercise emphasizing the integration of joint fires capabilities that include fixed wing joint terminal attack controller and assets from the Air National Guard with helicopter, artillery and other assets from the Army National Guard. While the bulk of the exercise occurs in Michigan, Atterbury hosts and extension of it which has included the Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia National Guards, to take advantage of specific training capabilities that Atterbury has to offer.
“Atterbury is perfect for this part of the exercise because the impact zones for air-to-ground gunnery range and the artillery are right next to each other,” said Air National Guard Maj. Scott Grotbo, officer in charge, Tactical Air Control Party Air Support Operations Center. “There are very few places with this kind of set up.
The close proximity between impact zones meant that ground forces could call for close air support, while simultaneously running artillery missions, making for realistic training scenarios that would be difficult to duplicate elsewhere.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how this training has gone,” Lt. Col. Kellard Townsend, battalion commander, 2nd Bn. 150th Field Artillery, Indiana National Guard. “This is a rare opportunity to practice skills that aren’t always feasible to train during a drill weekend, but are well within our combat capabilities.”
With rotary wing support from West Virginia’s C Co., 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation, Soldiers and Airmen were even able to call for fire support from field artillery assets while airborne, observing impacts and adjusting as necessary, all from in the air.
“This has been an excellent training venue. We have been able to pair unmanned aircraft assets that are already here on the base with both close air support and indirect fires to identify targets and then neutralize them as effectively as possible,” said Air National Guard Master Sgt. Anthony Hobson, Terre Haute, Ind. native and JTAC with the 113th Air Support Operations Squadron, Indiana National Guard. “There are so many ranges here at Atterbury and they are laid out so well, that it’s just an outstanding place to do this kind of joint training.”
Training opportunities such as calling for fire from the air are not only unique to those calling for the artillery, but to the artillery assets receiving the mission as well.
“I have never seen missions called from a helicopter like that before,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Venia, Lawrenceburg, Ind., native and officer in charge of the artillery assets from 2-150 FA supporting Northern Strike. “It has been an excellent learning opportunity for all of us to be able to come out here and support this exercise.”
Two artillery sections were used during the exercise, one with a team of seasoned veterans, which worked alongside another section with much less experience, allowing them learn from each other and hone the overall capabilities of the unit.
“The guys on our second gun are pretty new. For some of them, it’s their first time in the field since artillery school,” said Venia. “The experience they are receiving out here is extremely valuable to them, in particular, and it will allow them to go back to the unit after this exercise as much better artillerymen than they were before, and this has all gone smoothly because they are working right next to a veteran gun crew that has really done a great job of showing them what the standard is and how things are suppose to be.”
Northern Strike occurs each year, and this is the second year in a row Atterbury has been host to this portion of the exercise. With over 30,000 acres of training areas and capabilities that are well-suited to the training needs of these kinds of exercises, Atterbury is the perfect location for joint fires training that allows both Army and Air National Guard units to train together and complement each others’ strengths in a way that is very much in keeping with the role of a joint force.