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By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
137th Special Operations Wing
Airmen from the 137th Special Operations Wing (SOW) deployed in support of Northern Strike 22-2 Aug. 6-19, 2022, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich.
The group of nearly 50 Oklahoma Air National Guardsmen supported different aspects of operations conducted during the exercise, including a 13-person Mission Sustainment Team (MST), two MC-12W flight crews, and training operations center (TOC) support from the 137th Special Operations Support Squadron, the 189th Intelligence Squadron, and the 285th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron.
“We are working on integrating MST Airmen, from our mission support group side, with the Special Operations Tasking Unit (SOTU), which is the operations side, in support of Special Operations Force Generation,” said Maj. Brian Campbell, 137th SOW mission commander for Northern Strike 22-2.
Exercise Northern Strike 22-2 is the largest National Guard Bureau-sponsored military exercise and is designed to validate readiness of the joint and reserve force, as well as demonstrate joint integration into the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept.
“My hope coming out of this exercise is that the MST becomes familiar with our training operations center so they can set up a secure forward operating base for our operations team to come in and start conducting flying missions,” Campbell said. “As a unit, we need to be able to deploy autonomously with no outside support or structure but still get the mission done using whatever is available to us.”
The focus of Northern Strike 22-2 was the military’s ability to train the warfighter in any environment, and 137th SOW multi-capable Airmen directly contributed to reaching that proof of concept. MST Airmen conducted training in providing command and control for a forward operating base, then integrated with the A-10 Thunderbolt II ACE team with 107th Fighter Squadron, Michigan National Guard.
“Understanding where we fit into the exercise really fell into place for me working alongside the ACE team,” said Staff Sgt. Austin Manchester, MST member assigned to the 137th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. “Talking about our role is one thing, but I’m a hands-on learner so seeing their part of operations helped illustrate the aspects of what we’re doing here to pave the way for them.”
The 13 MST Airmen also worked alongside the SOTU to start developing processes for working together before the MST is deployed to an austere location.
“We can work with the TOC to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions with the MC-12W for a pre-landing site survey,” noted Senior Master Sgt. John Via, 137th MST senior enlisted leader with the 137th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We still have to be proficient in land navigation and unexploded ordnance sweeps once we are on the ground to prepare for airfield layout, but once we have the command and control set up we can move to sustainment and security operations for the aircraft and operations support team.”
Integrating the 137th MST and SOTU toward a single mission highlights the focus of Northern Strike 22-2, which involves approximately 7,400 military members from 19 states and several coalition countries including Canada, Latvia, and the U.K., at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center. The MC-12W not only provided ISR to the 137th MST but also worked alongside MQ-9 Reaper support teams with the 110th Attack Wing, tactical air control party members with the 113th Air Support Operations Squadron, Latvian special operations forces, and U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group and 20th SFG.