Members of the 127th Wing Security Forces Squadron train at the Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain area at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center Aug. 2.

Members of the 127th Wing Security Forces Squadron train at the Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain area at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center Aug. 2.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

127th Wing partakes in special training in northern Michigan

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published August 5, 2021


HARRISON TOWNSHIP/ALPENA — From the top command to boots on the ground, personnel at the 127th Wing emphasized the value of a unique training opportunity in northern Michigan.

From July 26 to Aug. 6, more than half of the 127th Wing attended training known as Exercise Spartan at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, or CRTC. The wing is based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, about 240 miles south of Alpena.

Exercise Spartan was part of Northern Strike, one of the Department of Defense’s largest reserve component readiness exercises.

Northern Strike is an Army and Air National Guard-sponsored, Joint National Training Capability-accredited exercise providing readiness-building opportunities for all services.

More than 5,000 participants from various states and countries converged at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center, or NADWC, for training focused on expeditionary skills, command and control, sustainment, and joint integrated fires.

The NADWC encompasses the Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and the CRTC. The training area consists of 148,000 acres of maneuver space and more than 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.

At the CRTC Aug. 2, C & G Newspapers observed an aircraft rescue simulation exercise and security forces training.

Alfred Ferszt is an airman at Selfridge, part of the 127th Wing Civil Engineering Squadron.

“We’ve been working with some of the burn pits and have a crash truck where the aircraft would be on fire and we’d put it out in the crash truck,” he said.

Ferszt, of Harrison Township, said part of the training was in a burn tower, where personnel replicated a live fire, repelling off the top of a house.

“This training is a lot more specialized,” he said. “A lot of what is here, we don’t have at our home base at Selfridge.”    

In an interview, Brig. Gen. Rolf Mammen, 127th Wing commander, said the training is done in phases. The first week, wing personnel were on site, preparing. Then, a majority of wing personnel, along with several aircraft and equipment, arrived toward the end of the first week.

Mammen said the training would be “hot and heavy” the week of Aug. 2.

The general called the 127th Wing’s involvement in Exercise Spartan a pretty significant part of Northern Strike.

“We are the capstone air part of this exercise,” he said.

Mammen explained that there are four combat-readiness training centers in the U.S.

“Maybe I’m biased because I live in Michigan, but I think Alpena is absolutely the exquisite spot to be,” he said.

Examining the air space over Alpena that the 127th Wing fights in, Mammen said, it’s the largest contiguous airspace east of the Mississippi River.

“Both the over water range and where we can drop ordnance into the water and a land range, where we do most of our work in — we have every capability here to train.”

He said while training ranges out west are phenomenal, they don’t have a water component, like at Alpena.

“With Exercise Spartan, we can really train to the next level of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Mammen said.

Joseph Crocker, a senior master sergeant in the Air National Guard who is based at Selfridge, said Exercise Spartan is a great evaluation for the unit to come out and demonstrate what they train for all year long.

“We do proficiency training to make sure our firefighters are equipped and ready to do the real-world fight, whether it be stateside or abroad,” he said.

Crocker is also a 127th Wing inspection member.

“We’ll see if our guys are meeting the requirements that exist,” he said. “The location is ideal for us here. The dynamics are great, and the capability that exists here with the different training aids they have are something we don’t get to capitalize from where we’re at.”

Over at the Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain area, a mock city was set up where members of the 127th Wing Security Forces Squadron practiced urban terrain operations.

Master Sgt. Diana Nogiec said some of the training in Alpena is part of the squadron’s annual requirement.

“We were doing some force on force where we practiced moving in teams, practicing communicating, going from building to building and tactics,” she said.

Additional security forces training included land navigation and shooting with firearms.

“We don’t have this opportunity afforded to us at Selfridge, so it’s really cool that we can come here to practice,” Nogiec said.   

Nogiec, of Rockwood, is a first sergeant.

“The best part is the camaraderie and the unit cohesion when they come here,” she said. “The days are long, but they have been in good spirits and kicking butt.”

Senior Airman Heather Burks is part of the 127th Wing Force Support Squadron. She worked on the logistical side of Exercise Spartan.

“When we are at a deployed location, we are in charge of accounting for all personnel on base,” she said. “It can be personnel who arrived with us, transients that come on or off base for a temporary duty assignment.”

Burks, of Millington, has been at Selfridge for three years.

“We have been simulating what it would be like in a deployed location, building up what we would do and how we would do it so we can commit it to memory,” she said.

She said most nights during the exercise, her unit was working until about midnight, processing all the airmen.

Toward the end of Exercise Spartan, on Aug. 5 after press time, the plan was for the 127th Wing to lead a highway landing near the Alpena center.

For that mission, the Air Force planned on landing four A-10 aircraft and a pair of C-146 aircraft on M-32. The Air Force’s 355th Wing from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and the Air Force Special Operations Command from Duke Field in Florida also were set to participate.

Of the six aircraft landing, two Selfridge pilots were scheduled to take part.  

It is believed to be the first time that modern Air Force aircraft have intentionally landed on a civilian roadway on U.S. soil.