By Lance Cpl. Devan Barnett, Marine Corps Forces Reserves
CAMP GRAYLING, Mich. -- Reserve Marines from across the United States participated in exercise Northern Strike 16, Aug. 6-20, 2016 at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Michigan.
Northern Strike 16 is a National Guard Bureau-sponsored multinational, multilateral combined arms, live-fire exercise with members from 20 states and three coalition countries. The exercise brings together over 5,000 service members and strives to provide accessible, readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches. The focus of the exercise is to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, and the synchronization of fires in a decisive action environment.
“Learning from our sister services and our partner nations are so very important,” said Col. Michael Samarov, commanding officer of 25th Marine Regiment. “We pride ourselves on our combat capabilities; we are the finest fighting force in the world. When we do go to combat, we are not going to fight by ourselves. Learning how to fight with others, learning from them, and teaching them how we work is very important.”
Every country and unit brought their own unique experiences and knowledge to the exercise. The Marines brought several different Reserve units in support of efforts on the ground, in the sky and in the water.
“The Marines involved from Marine Forces Reserve are from 2nd and 3rd Battalion of 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company from Force Headquarters Group and the Marine Air Support Squadron 6 from the Direct Air Support Center,” Samarov said.
The Marines worked with the Army and Air National Guard from all over the United States. Large scale exercises aboard Camp Grayling allowed multiple units to work together and perform their annual trainings in a decisive-action environment.
“Camp Grayling is a wonderful training venue,” Samarov said. “It provides us an opportunity to conduct amphibious assaults and also has numerous live fire ranges to include air and artillery ranges for live-fire. Grayling includes Military Operations in Urban Terrain facilities, live-fire shooting houses, as well as, static firing ranges. And then over the top of this training area is a very large airspace through which military aircraft can train. Outside of places like Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejeune, and Twentynine Palms, I can’t think of another venue that has all of these capabilities all in one place.”
With the limited amount of training centers that allow combined arm exercises on a large scale, the Marines know the importance of taking advantage of Camp Grayling.
“This training is important because we have been at war for 15 years and are continuing to send units overseas,” said Staff. Sgt. Anthony Owens, platoon sergeant with 2nd platoon, Company E, 2nd Bn., 25th Marine Reg. “My goal is to make sure my platoon and my company is ready to be combat ready and combat effective. As a platoon we need to be able to maneuver and assault on the enemy at any time while using direct and indirect fires. These ranges will allow me to assess the Marines and to see where they are and know what I need to work on to make sure they can be combat effective.”
The training ensures the Marines have all of the tools and skill sets, and learning opportunities to support their active components.
“The Reserve Marines have always done so much to augment the active duty side,” Samarov said. “Reserve Marines from this regiment have deployed to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, activated to join training teams in countries all over the world; they have come on active duty to support exercises, as well as participated in training and education across all of our specialties. There is nothing Reserve Marines can’t or won’t do when the active component calls.”
With recent reductions on reserve deployments, Reserve Marines are focused on training. According to Paul Kane, former research fellow of the international security program for Harvard University, at the height of the war the Marine Forces Reserve deployed more than any other U.S. military service with 63% of their total forces. Today MFR deploys less than 15% of the current Reserve Force. Irrespective of deployment the Corps’ Reserve percentages, they have two main missions as a Force.
“Reserve Marines have two roles in augmenting the active duty side,” Samarov said. “The first one is an operational reserve. For the missions that exist today, the active component requires additional capacity. We can activate Reserve Marines very quickly, and send them to the fight. Once they get to the fight their other role is being a strategic reserve, in case we need to build a lot of combat power capacity. At that point, the Reserve has a lot of combat power that can be very rapidly brought up to join the active component to fight our nation’s battles.”
The Reserve Marines know their roles and have their sea bag packed, ready to answer America’s call.
“The Reserve Marines are ready to support the active duty component at any given time. Exercises like this help in making that happen,” Samarov said. “The troops have grown over the last two weeks, both at the individual level and at the collective level. I really feel like exercises like this afford us the opportunity that additional proficiency that the active component is looking for, very quickly into the fight.”
Northern Strike 16 is the most recent effort in demonstrating that the Marine Forces Reserve is ready to augment, reinforce and support America and the interests of the American people. Using this realistic scenario the Marines learn the importance and significance of training how you will perform in a real life scenario and ensuring partnerships are built across America.
“It shows our Marines the strength of friendship and partnership across the world of other countries that stands for the same thing America does: freedom, liberty, and equality,” Samarov said. “The other value is the ability to exchange and learn about other cultures. I think it doesn’t just make us better Marines, it makes us better people.”