Personnel of the Armed Forces of Liberia or AFL for the first time have converged in Northern Michigan, United States of America, for an annual war simulation training exercise known as Northern Strike.
The 16 personnel, drawn from the AFL’S Quick Reaction Platoon of its next batch of troops to be rotated in Mali, left Liberia on Sunday, 25 July 2021 to join military personnel from all over the United States, United Kingdom, Latvia, and Taiwan for the Northern Strike.
A Ministry of Defense press release said the training area consists of Camp Grayling Maneuver Training Center and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center: 148,000 acres of maneuver space and more than 17,000 square miles of special-use airspace.
The yearly training exercise simulates “a realistic wartime environment” and focuses on expeditionary skills, command and control, sustainment, and joint-integrated fires.
According to the release, Operation Northern Strike is a joint training (air, ground, and sea) and multinational exercise involving diverse scenarios of different settings. It will bring together units across the US Military Services and International partners.
AFL’s participation in the Northern Strike will enhance its Operational Capabilities, the release said, adding that this will also help Liberia to have mission-readied troops prior to deployment in the United Nations Multinational Integration Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
This exercise, executed in complex field conditions designed to simulate a realistic wartime environment, demonstrates the ability to provide accessible readiness-building opportunities for military units of all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting Mission Command, Air, Sea and Ground Maneuver Integration, together with synchronization of fires in joint, multinational and Decisive Action Environment.
“This tests visiting units’ ability to partner and communicate effectively across coalitions and components,” said U.S. Army Col. Bart Verbanic, Northern Strike land component officer in charge.
The Chief of Staff (COS) of the AFL, Maj. Gen. Prince C. Johnson, III, expressed thanks to the Michigan National Guard for the participatory training opportunity given the AFL.
The COS said that “Participation in Northern Strike gives AFL personnel the opportunities to travel, make new friends and mentors, train together and learn from each other in a new country and new environment.”
“Though this is the first time that AFL Soldiers are actively participating in the physical Northern Strike Exercise, I am of the confidence that my troops will perform beyond expectations,” General Johnson stated.
Also, the AFL COS expressed confidence in the State Partnership Program between the AFL and the Michigan National Guard which has provided local and international training for personnel of the AFL.
“As this exercise demonstrates the abilities to provide accessible readiness-building opportunities, this will bring our troops up to speed and put them at a proficiency level to perform their peace-keeping duties in Mali,” Maj. Gen. Johnson emphasized.
“This exercise serves as a great opportunity for our multicomponent, multinational, and interagency partners to develop into efficient, joint warfighters,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, adjutant general, and director of the DMVA. “Training like we may be called on to fight is critical in preparing to confront a near-peer adversary in the future.”
The Republic of Liberia/ AFL and the State of Michigan/ the Michigan National Guard signed a State Partnership Program in 2010 after Operation Onward Liberty (OOL) successfully ended its mission in Liberia.
Major General Gregory J. Vadnais (Rtd), Adjutant General and Director of Military and Veteran Affairs of Michigan played a crucial role in establishing and nurturing the partnership between the AFL and the Michigan National Guard.
The Michigan National Guard has contributed to the AFL through Mobile Training Team (MTT), Training Contact Team (TCT), and infrastructural development like the construction of the multipurpose building at the Edward Binyah Kesselly Barracks (EBK).
The Michigan National Guard began hosting Northern Strike in 2012, and the program includes exercises that require units from different military branches, and even different countries, to work together in complex, time-sensitive scenarios.
This year the Michigan National Guard is hosting about 5,100 participants from three U.S. Army components, U.S. Air Force active duty and guard, U.S. Marine and U.S. Navy components, plus units from the United Kingdom, Latvia, and Liberia at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center from July 31 to August 14.