VOLK FIELD, Wis. — Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center provided realistic counterland combat training during the first of two Northern Lightning training exercises, May 6-17.
The joint training exercise accommodated more than 50 aircraft and several hundred personnel from more than a dozen active duty Air Force, National Guard and Navy units. The specific exercise scenario focused on close air support in a contested environment, battlespace awareness and joint asset integration.
“We know that wars are not fought by isolated military branches, and by training together we can make the sum of our efforts greater than any one part,” said Col. Bart Van Roo, exercise director. “Just like you wouldn’t throw a bunch of players together for a championship sports game, we don’t want our first time working together to be when stakes are even higher. The core reason we do military exercises is to test our communications, planning, decision-making and thinking. In short, we try to find ways to defeat ourselves so that we continually improve.”
During the exercise 350 sorties were flown, 400 bombs dropped and approximately 3,000 ground control tasks were executed at Volk Field, Hardwood Range and Fort McCoy. Throughout the exercise, simulated threats targeted aircraft and ground forces were hunted by personnel acting as enemy troops. These types of replicated aggression enhance the training.
“This exercise continually exceeds most people’s expectations,” Van Roo said. “In large part this is because Volk Field provides a live training range that enables aircraft and ground crews to conduct missions as they would be executed, and because we tailor the exercise scenarios to meet the needs of participants. We’ve all had meetings where we’ve left thinking that it was a waste of time. Northern Lightning is specifically designed to avoid that notion.”
Northern Lightning is a tactical level, joint training exercise replicating modern air battle space with current and future weapons platforms. A variety of aircraft — including the UH-60, F-16, EA-18, A-10, and KC-135 — participated in the exercise. The goal of the exercise is to provide tailored, cost effective and realistic combat training for participating units in a joint and multinational environment. The training environment replicates the environment in which combat aviators from each of the services would operate in wartime in an effort to build readiness to defend the nation.
The Wisconsin National Guard’s Volk Field CRTC is one of the premier training installations in the country due to its expansive airspace and the quality of the training the installation can simulate. For National Guard forces participating in the exercise, Northern Lightning provides an unmatched opportunity to experience first-class training to enhance its readiness for its federal mission as part of the primary combat reserve of the Air Force, but also for its respective state missions.