Northern Edge 2017, training for the fight

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mike Campbell
  • 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs
How does it feel to take all of your military training and years of experience and throw it into one exercise? Some would call the annual Northern Edge Exercise the final summit.

“It all comes together in an exercise like the NE2017,” said U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Autumn Perillo, Air Force F-15 crew chief. “Until you are out here, you really have no idea and then you see why all training matters.”

Northern Edge dates back historically as far as 1975, and is still an active training exercise designed to generate effective combinations of military readiness. Northern Edge 2017 was a massive training exercise involving 6,000 military personnel from multiple service branches across the United States. They organized into a singular strike force designed to attack and annihilate enemy incursions into the northern climate territories of the United States and Canada. Headquartered at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson from May 1-12, NE 2017 tested the warfare engagement strategies, strike force capabilities, and defensive proficiencies of our joint forces.

Planning NE 2017 isn’t magic; it takes enormous preparation, intense logistical coordination, and highly experienced and trained personnel to make it a success. TDY’s and deployment’s such as the NE 2017 begin with a conceptual design to implement strategic goals and policies that enhance the political, economic and military interests of the United States. An exercise of this enormity requires expertise and proper planning from the top echelons of the military command structure down to the young infantry rifleman, aircraft maintenance technician and naval seaman. Long hours of planning, tons of paperwork, incessant communications, and lots of coffee are the ingredients for exercise preparation. However, the dedicated military professionals are the primary driving force behind Northern Edge’s success.

The 354th Operations Group Detachment 1 Red Flag unit is one of many contributing to NE 2017.

“We are the exercise support for NE2017. Our expertise in exercise execution facilitates deploying unit's arrival, setup, execution, and redeployment,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Sanders, maintenance superintendent from the 354 OG Det 1. “We ensure local rules and regulations are followed by the units and fill the role as a liaison with host base agencies to ensure exercise success.”

Military members from every branch of service, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, perform countless hours of training in their respective occupations. As part of active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, they work together to keep America safe, and aspiring to be the best is a demanding goal. Exercise deployments allow service members to practice and prepare for actual combat operations.

“My training and skills as an Avionics Technician are put to test showing my proficiency in my MOS in exercises such as the NE2017 to execute a mission of air to air dominance with this multi aircraft exercise,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Quintin Simpson from the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

A Marine avionics technician for the F-35B Lightening II from the fixed wing fighter attack squadron F-35/VMFA-121 added to be in a NE2017 in Alaska combines their knowledge, training and skills to get their “sets off the decks and into the fight.”
A total force joint effort in exercises like NE 2017 gives military members the opportunity to meet others who have similar job experience. Working with members of other military services provides each person a chance to interact and understand how joint military operations can be coordinated and implemented. Participating in a joint exercise with other service members gives everyone involved a greater understanding how critical each job is to achieving the overall mission.

“The Northern Edge exercise provides us with unparalleled training, including multiservice integration’” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeremy Weihrich, 302nd Fighter Squadron Director of Operations. “For example, this is my first opportunity to fly and fight with Marine F-35s. There's no better place to achieve this level of training than in the skies and environment that only Alaska provides.

Weihrich, an experienced F-22 pilot, is not the only one who shared these sentiments, which were echoed across the flight line from crew chiefs to supervisors.
Taking a few questions on the flight-line after a weathered May Alaskan day, U.S. Navy Petty Officer First Class Terry Campbell from the VAQ-134 Electronic Attack squadron (GARUDAS) also appreciated the camaraderie of the joint atmosphere.

“It’s an honor to serve alongside our active duty brothers and sisters and prepare for America's next call,” Said Campbell. “This was my second time in Alaska, and it’s great to be part of this exercise training with other branches getting to see how they operate.”

“Our day-to-day operations prepare us for exercises like Northern Edge to ensure everything within our control goes smoothly,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jordan Johnson, an officer in charge of a U-2 squadron from Beale Air Force Base. “This allows us to generate the U-2 aircraft quickly and efficiently so we can focus our energy on the nonstandard operations and coordinating with the other units and airframes on the ground so our pilots are able to meet the mission requirements in the air.”

Apart from the thundering roar of aircraft over the mountains of Alaska, there is a louder reverberation. It is the resonance of cooperation and perseverance from the men and women of the military forces who found common ground to make this NE 2017 a huge success. George Washington may have said it best in his first annual address to Congress Jan. 8, 1790: “TO BE PREPARED FOR WAR IS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS OF PRESERVING PEACE.”