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    Alpena CRTC Empowers Airmen to Develop New Training Solutions

    SAF IE Visits Northern Strike 2023

    Photo By Capt. Cammy Alberts | Dr. Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for energy, installations and...... read more read more

    ALPENA, MI, UNITED STATES

    08.17.2023

    Story by Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Heaton 

    Michigan National Guard

    By empowering local Airmen to find new solutions to ongoing or emerging challenges, the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan, continues to serve as one of the premier training sites not only for the Air Force, but military personnel from across the U.S. Armed Forces.

    “Our airmen and civilian employees have a very innovative mindset here at the CRTC. They know that their good ideas have a real chance of becoming important additions to the training menu that we offer our guests of the base, the region, and of the airspace. These ideas are often vetted and rapidly developed to make our customer’s experiences more valuable,” said Michigan Air National Guard Col. James Rossi, the base commander.

    Among recent innovations at the base is the re-purposing of a portion of the Military Operations in Urban Training (MOUT) site as a cyber warfare training lane, the addition of several portable threat emitters specifically designed to target 5th generation fighter aircraft - even using something as simple as a 25-foot boat to generate new training scenarios on nearby Lake Huron.

    “Some of these ideas are first sketched out on a napkin over lunch,” said Lt. Col. Brian Wyrzkowski, operations director at the CRTC. “But as these ideas come forward, if they are something that is going to help our customer to better train, to increase their readiness, we’re all for it.”

    Tactical Cyber Range at the CRTC MOUT site
    The MOUT has been used for decades to help miliary personnel train to fight in an urban setting. It features more than a dozen buildings, situated around a village square. Discussion among Alpena Airmen about the changing nature of urban warfare led to the re-purposing of something old into a modern, high-tech training center.

    Now, the MOUT is filled with a variety of sensors that an opposing force can use to determine what direction an attacking force is coming from or where they are located.

    “These sensors are the reality of modern warfare,” said Master Sgt. Rick Boyer, an Air Force Joint Terminal Attack Controller who is assigned to Alpena and helps run the cyber range. “Any urban area that we go into, there are going to be motion sensors, facial recognition technology and a whole assortment of other sensors that our adversaries are going to use to try to maintain the advantage over us. This range allows our units to be exposed to what that means and then work on tactics, techniques and procedures that allows them to defeat that threat. When the adversary knows where you are and where you are going, they have the tactical advantage.”

    When units simulate an attack or other mission in the MOUT, they have to figure out a plan to defeat the sensors and regain the tactical advantage.

    As the Alpena team began developing the cyber range to support ground forces in 2022, a visiting unit caught wind of the program and added yet another element.

    “The Oklahoma Air Guard was here last year with their MC-12 Liberty aircraft on a different mission, but they heard what we doing with cyber and they immediately said ‘hey, how can we support that?’” Wyrzkowski said.

    Now, Boyer said, visiting air units operate in conjunction with visiting ground units at the cyber training range, allowing those operating in the land, air and cyber domains to all work together to develop successful mission plans.

    “We have such intelligent, motivated Airmen – honestly it is fun to watch what they are doing and how they are serving our customers,” Rossi said. “We want the units that come and train here to get the most realistic, most challenging training that is possible, because how they train is how they will fight if that call comes.”

    Low-cost threat emitters
    The CRTC recently purchased a number of small, portable threat emitters that simulate surface-to-air missile systems that may be deployed by a potential adversary. The new emitters join a series of other, older systems that exist around the state that the Air Force has used for several years for surface-to-air training scenarios. The new emitters are specifically equipped to provide new challenges for the U.S. military’s 5tth generation fighters, such as the F-35 Lightning II flown by the Air Force. During Exercise Northern Strike in early to mid-August 2023, F-35s flown by the Vermont Air National Guard became the first unit to train against the new Alpena emitters.

    While the older emitters are technically portable, moving them requires significant effort. The new emitters are small enough that they can be easily transported on the back of a pick-up truck – or towed by a boat.

    “If we are going to be ready to fight in the Pacific region, we have to be able to recognize and defeat threats in a maritime environment,” Wyrzkowski said. “We have significant air space over Lake Huron where we can tow an emitter and it will be in a different place every time and there will be no landmarks near where it is. That poses a very real threat to our aircraft and as our pilots are exposed to that threat here in a training environment, they will be able to exercise the skills they need to defeat that threat.”

    The new emitters are an example of how, as the world changes and evolves, so to does the CRTC.

    The Alpena service boat
    Here’s where a centuries-old technology, a simple 25-foot motor boat, is being put to new uses to support the CRTC mission.

    The CRTC recently worked with the Coast Guard to provide training to about a dozen Airmen assigned to the CRTC who operate the boat in a variety of mission sets on Lake Huron. It might be as simple as towing one of those new threat emitters out into the lake, or as complex as serving as a waterborne “adversary” that is try to attack another boat on the lake while a U.S. military helicopter tries to intervene.

    “We structure what we do with the boat based on what the customer is trying to accomplish,” said Tech. Sgt. Gerad Pyszka, one of the CRTC-based Airmen who serves as a captain of the boat.

    The boat allows the CRTC to add yet another training domain for visiting units.

    “Again, it is about adding that extra dimension to our training scenarios, to really put that ‘all’ into the National All-Domain Warfighting Center so that our visiting units walk out of here with training that is relevant, challenging and prepares them for whatever may lie ahead,” Wyrzkowski said.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 08.17.2023
    Date Posted: 08.18.2023 11:51
    Story ID: 451605
    Location: ALPENA, MI, US

    Web Views: 92
    Downloads: 2

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