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Annual military training underway at Camp Grayling

GRAYLING — There’s quite a bit of military activity going on in Camp Grayling, as thousands of soldiers from across the state are at the largest training facility in the United States.

More than 3,000 soldiers from the Michigan National Guard and the National Armed Forces of Latvia have been going through high-octane drills for their annual training at the Joint Maneuver Training Center in Grayling.

Soldiers landed at Camp Grayling on June 1 and have been busy conducting all sorts of military training, everything from tasks like shooting, moving, communicating to group operations like demolitions to shooting rocket artillery.

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Captain David Kennedy with the Michigan National Guard says that National Guardsmen are really a jack of all trades. They serve in uniform one weekend a month and two weeks a year, the rest of the time they work civilian jobs.

“The same soldiers that we see today are lawyers and geologists and bankers and tradesmen, so from all walks of life that really want the opportunity to serve their country and serve their community,” said Kennedy.

He said they’ve been learning all sorts of training that’s critical to making sure they are ready at a moment’s notice.

“Everything from can you go, put on a 40-pound ruck and go march 7 km or 12 km? Can you operate a weapon? Do you know how to shoot your weapon, precisely and accurately? And, you know, can you treat a casualty?” said Kennedy.

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Today, Guard members got to take part in helocast training. That’s where soldiers jumped out of a helicopter into Lake Margrethe.

Captain Adam Donne, commander of the 1433rd Combat Engineer Company, took part in the exercise and said it prepares them if they have to drop in quickly on water. He also said it’s a favorite of a lot of soldiers.

“It’s a big confidence training exercise for our soldiers. If we were to be dropped off, you know, in a lake, we can swim to shore with our gear,” said Donne.

Donne said the training requires speed, stealth and being a strong swimmer.

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“The helicopters would fly into the water, you jump out, and then they’d fly away quickly. It’s, again, confidence training, confidence building and, really, it’s kind of like a fun thing to do,” said Donne.

The Michigan National Guard says that every soldier’s experience training may be different.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve been doing mobility operations. So, breaching wire obstacles and minefields. We’ve integrated with some foreign partners. So, the Latvian armed forces were here, training with us for a number of days,” said Donne.

The soldiers also got some practice on the shooting range, firing off machine guns for proficiency.

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Captain Sven Alm, a battalion assistant operations officer with the Michigan National Guard, said that training is very necessary to their success.

“It is a perishable skill. Throughout the year, you might not have the opportunity to get behind a weapon system. So, maximizing the time that we have to fire and employ our weapon systems is very critical, said Alm.

Last week, as part of their training they launched a high mobility artillery rocket system known as HIMARS.

Kennedy said the Michigan National Guard is not involved in the conflict in the Ukraine, but the HIMARS system has been used by Ukraine in their efforts to fight Russia.

The training takes place through the 15th.

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