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    Camp Grayling provides U.S. Army with premier opportunity for training, mobilization in Northern Michigan

    Camp Grayling: Premier Training Site of the U.S National Guard

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Jacob Cessna | The Minute Man statue stands in front of Camp Grayling’s main entrance, Feb. 13,...... read more read more



    Story by 1st Lt. Andrew Layton 

    Michigan National Guard

    GRAYLING, Mich. – With nearly 148,000 acres of ground maneuver area, blanketed by the single most expansive military training airspace east of the Mississippi River, Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center is the U.S. National Guard’s premier training site.

    Founded in 1913, the scope of Camp Grayling’s sprawling area in Northern Michigan is rivaled only by the length and depth of the installation’s history.

    After troops first began training there in 1914, Camp Grayling served as a mobilization site for thousands of American Soldiers as they prepared to deploy to Europe during World War I. Likewise, the Camp was federally activated and used extensively for training during World War II. Since then, Camp Grayling has been a consistent leader in providing full-spectrum, four-season, premier training opportunities, capable of supporting the needs of the military and civilian leaders. The facility now annually hosts exercise Northern Strike, the Department of Defense’s largest joint, reserve-component, collective readiness event. In 2019, nearly 7,000 personnel from more than 20 U.S. states and seven countries gathered in Northern Michigan for the exercise.

    U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Wayne Koppa, commander of Camp Grayling from 1989 to 1994, and U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Ret.) Dale French, former Camp Grayling mobilization officer, recently met with the current deputy installation commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Burrell, to discuss the history of the facility. Their conversation focused on the little-known chapter of Camp Grayling’s pedigree as an Installation Support Unit (ISU) mobilization site during the 1980s and early 1990s, while Koppa was in command.

    “The job of the mobilization staff was to bring Soldiers to a location for a final check before they went overseas to execute their mission,” says Koppa. “This was the case in peacetime and wartime – if Soldiers were going to go to Europe for a two-week annual training, they would go through a mobilization site.”

    The mobilization function included receiving Soldiers and equipment, screening them for all readiness requirements, and assisting with the provision of special skills training. When active, Camp Grayling’s mobilization team consisted of four full-time personnel.

    “[While it was operational] the Camp Grayling mobilization site was able to deploy up to 26,000 Soldiers annually,” said Koppa. French elaborated on well-established support agreements with civilian authorities and facilities to achieve this capability.

    Camp Grayling contributed to the mass activation of U.S forces during the Gulf War in 1990 by deploying four assigned units. On a later deployment, the 745th Ordnance Detachment deployed from Camp Grayling on a C-17 cargo aircraft directly to the Middle East after undergoing the mobilization process.

    In 1983, detailed planning began at the National Guard Bureau for the recognition of nine state-owned/operated training sites which were also mobilization stations. According to the National Guard Bureau’s 1983 Annual Review, the purpose of the mobilization stations, or ISUs, was to perform a training mission and a mobilization and deployment planning mission in peacetime.

    When initial resourcing took effect during the 1985 fiscal year, the nine sites included Camp Atterbury, Ind., Camp Robinson, Ark., Camp Roberts, Calif., Camp Edwards, Mass., Camp Blanding, Fla., Camp Shelby, Miss., Camp Ripley, Minn. – and Camp Grayling. The sites were administered under U.S. Forces Command (FORSCOM).

    Koppa asserts that the terrain and climate of Camp Grayling was a significant benefit as troops trained to meet a near-peer challenge during the Cold War.

    “Our weather and terrain here is similar to the weather and terrain in the Baltics,” says Koppa. “A lot of the training that took place in the 1980s was centered around a confrontation with the Soviets in Eastern Europe; if I dropped you on a back road in Latvia, you might think you were on a back road at or around Camp Grayling.”

    Koppa has a high state of confidence in the similarity of the two locations, having spent twenty five months assigned to the American Embassy in Riga, Latvia.

    “The need for that type of near-peer training is more important than ever,” he says.

    Burrell agrees.

    “This is an all-season training environment, but if you’re training to go somewhere where it’s winter, this is really where you want to do your training,” said Burrell. “This installation can still do everything necessary for a mobilization site.”

    Among Camp Grayling’s assets is a railhead that allows units to efficiently move vehicles and equipment for training or mobilization. It accommodates the loading or unloading of 50 railcars, and an adjacent, 147,500-square-foot Maneuver and Training Equipment Site (MATES) providing immediate support for assets, including armor, with more than 125 maintenance and storage bays.

    With several deep-water shipping ports in Northern Michigan (including one in Alpena, less than 100 miles from Grayling) mobilization of cargo via shipping routes including the Saint Lawrence Seaway is also possible from Camp Grayling. For destination ports in Eastern Europe, like Riga, the journey by shipping vessel is roughly 1,000 miles shorter from Northern Michigan than from major ports in the southern U.S. For instance, shipping from Miami to Riga takes approximately 23 days; shipping from Alpena to Riga takes roughly 18.3 days. Alpena is also approximately one day closer to Europe than shipping ports in the northeastern U.S., like New York.

    Additionally, Camp Grayling offers robust medical infrastructure, including a Role 2 clinic featuring dental, lab, and x-ray capabilities, sick call bays, and massive Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) capability. The installation is partnered with local and state entities for additional emergency medical support, as needed. With all capabilities in place to validate and support medical readiness and training, exercises like Northern Strike continue to capitalize on these assets with focused emergency services and Aeromedical Evacuation/Patient Staging (AEPS) scenarios.

    In addition to its logistical and medical assets, Camp Grayling is ideally situated to meet any need for all-domain training and mission command opportunities across extended distance. Large artillery, mortar, tank ranges and maneuver courses can support training on most weapons in the U.S. Army’s inventory, from a 9mm pistol to a 155mm howitzer. Northern Michigan’s joint military training complex also boasts two 5,000’ by 150’ runways at Grayling Army Airfield, located a short distance from Camp Grayling’s main compound.

    Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, located ninety miles east of Grayling, is one of four Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Centers in the nation and also features a 45,000-acre aerial gunnery range, situated between the two installations.

    Equally important are strong community ties that date back to 1913 when lumber baron Rasmus Hansen originally donated the tract of land now known as Camp Grayling to the State of Michigan.

    Though Camp Grayling is no longer on the list of U.S. Forces Command state-owned mobilization sites, Burrell and Koppa both say there’s a strong case to be made for bringing the mobilization function back to the installation as U.S. Army FORSCOM evaluates east coast sites to stand up additional Mobilization Force Generation Installations (MFGI).

    “We need to be mobilizing Soldiers from a site that lends itself to their optimum performance once they deploy,” said Koppa. “They should be mobilizing from a site where they can get the best kind of training they need before they go downrange.”

    He adds that dollar for dollar, the value of Camp Grayling is better than nearly any other location for the mobilization process to be executed.

    “The mobilization process needs to be both proficient and practical,” he says. “Camp Grayling has always had the facilities, maneuver and training area and airspace; others to a smaller degree can make those claims, but in the end, Camp Grayling has historically been a cost effective way to mobilize troops.”

    As the largest National Guard training facility in the U.S. with the largest military training airspace east of the Mississippi River – and capacity for joint, all-domain readiness events – Camp Grayling is clearly the ideal site to combine premier training capability with efficient mobilization processes in one location.

    “This installation is part of the community,” said Koppa. “The mobilization process should be based on cost effectiveness and capability: I think it makes perfect sense for Camp Grayling to become a mobilization site again.”

    For more information about Camp Grayling’s capabilities and history, visit:

    For more information about Alpena CRTC’s capabilities and history, visit:



    Date Taken: 03.03.2020
    Date Posted: 03.03.2020 17:07
    Story ID: 364402
    Location: GRAYLING, MI, US 

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