Camp Grayling Brings Troops Into Crawford County for ‘Arctic Eagle’

"We like troops coming to town. It’s really good for business. It’s good for our town."

More than 1,000 soldiers are headed back to Northern Michigan’s National Guard training grounds.

It’s the beginning of Operation Arctic Eagle.

It brings agencies together at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center to practice responding to natural disasters.

The community around the base gets a boost too.

Today was Operation Arctic Eagle’s first day at Camp Grayling in Crawford County.

The two-week operation will also include exercises in Rogers City and Alpena.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jacob Johnson checked in with the base and has more details on both the operation and the community impact in the area.

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The barracks at Camp Grayling are filling up as approximately 1,100 troops arrive for training.

The training also brings a boost to the Grayling community.

"The National Guard is the first team, in terms of response if anything goes wrong, floods, you name it," says Col. Thomas Perison, Deputy Installations Commander for Michigan and exercise director for Arctic Eagle.

…A hefty responsibility for the National Guard that follows the old saying: practice makes perfect.

"This is based upon what do we do if something happens both of either an accident or a national disaster, man-made disaster operating in a cold weather environment," Col. Perison says. "How do you respond to that?"

Teams from the Marines, Coast Guard, danish army and Grayling Munson will spend two weeks training in the event of possible disasters.

"Arctic Eagle started last year," Col. Perison says. "We executed it the first time and it was the culmination of about four years of planning between Michigan and the National Guard bureau in Virginia by the Pentagon. Operationalizing the President’s national strategy for the Arctic, which was published in 2011 as well as partnering with both the local community, state responders and authorities."

Soldiers and personnel from West Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana and the Pentagon will be present for a majority of the exercises.

The Danish Army will also bring international representation.

They started arriving today.

"Michigan is a great, in Grayling, in particular, location because we’re cold, shockingly, a lot and we don’t have to travel all the way to Alaska to get at those problem sets," Col. Perison says. "We have Grayling City Emergency Services, as well as Grayling Munson Hospital, Northern Command out of Colorado. We are going to work with their 911 emergency services system here in the city and the county. We have to exercise all those systems and how does everybody work together."

Those in Grayling might hear a few bangs and booms, but Col. Perison says this operation is focused more on response strategies to disasters than combat.

"This is not so much based on a lot of things falling from the sky or loud explosions, although you are always going to hear a little bit of that," Col. Perison says. "If you don’t work together when the real thing happens, you don’t want to do it the first time, so this is good practice for everyone."

"We are glad to always work with the community," Col. Perison says. "We try to be a good neighbor that way and let everybody know what is going on."

"We love to have the troops here and to have the activities out at Camp Grayling," says Traci Cook, executive director of the Grayling Area Chamber of Commerce.

For Traci Cook, the sight of soldiers is a good one.

"Ii know sometimes they just can’t get off of base, but the community welcomes them and we want them to know that they are welcome here, their families are welcome here," Cook says. "They’ve been really great about letting the community know ahead of time that this is happening. That’s the biggest thing is that people are aware that it’s going to be happening."

Cook says the community is mostly accustomed to both the sounds of training and seeing uniforms and military vehicles around their area.

"The influx is great to see them come in in their uniforms," Cook says. "People like to see that and know that we are safe."

"They come in. We feed them," says Brenda Grandmaison, general manager of Bear’s Pizzeria in downtown Grayling. "We go out to the base and deliver them pizzas."

Businesses like Bear’s Pizzeria welcome troops and the patriotism that comes with them.

"A lot of times, the people in the restaurants will buy their dinners," Grandmaison says. "That’s what the people here can do for them. It’s great. It’s great. It gets to your heart."

A Camp Grayling release states:

"At the Rogers City and Cheboygan ports, Soldiers from Indiana and Massachusetts will practice loading vehicles and equipment onto barges for sea movement during the April 4-5 time-frame.

In Mackinaw City, the exercise takes place on April 5 and primarily focuses on Coast Guard operations.

In Grayling at the Munson Hospital, the exercise will consist of Soldiers from the Indiana Army National Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and local authorities. The casualty treatment/decontamination operations will take place on April 5-6. At the Grayling Army Airfield, units will conduct quick reaction drills responding to local disaster needs.

At Camp Grayling, on April 6-12, the exercise will take place at the newly constructed Combined Arms Collective Training Facility. Soldiers from the Danish Home Guard as well as Marines, will secure the infrastructure on the CACTF as if they were securing a real community from threats."

Arctic Eagle is set to go until April 14th.