Camp Grayling leaders strive to be proactive with the public regarding upcoming training
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Activity at Camp Grayling is about to ramp up for the year, but there are less soldiers expected to be in the community than in previous years.
An open house was held at the Camp Grayling Officer’s Club on Thursday, May 9, for local community leaders, business owners, and emergency responders.
Camp Grayling officials plan to make it an annual event prior to training commencing at area ranges and bases.
“The goal is to get information out to the community,” said Col. Edward Hallenbeck, the garrison commander for Camp Grayling. “I think we’re a big part of the community, the community is big part of us, so we have to work together as a team to move forward and to be successful.”
The first training will take place from May 15 to June 15 with the Ohio Army National Guard and 2,300 soldiers.
Next, from June 10 to June 29, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 1st of 109th Field Artillery Unit will be training with 250 soldiers.
From June 15 to June 29, the Michigan Army National Guard will be at the military base and on ranges with 3,000 soldiers
From July 7 to Aug. 3, Operation Northern Strike 2019 will take place with 5,000 soldiers from several states and countries.
From Aug. 4 to Aug. 17, Puerto Rico Army National Guard will be training with 150 soldiers.
Training for the season will conclude from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15 as the 3rd of 126th Infantry from the Michigan Army National Guard trains in the community.
Training at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range, located near Waters, began earlier this month and will extend through Aug. 30. Sorties will be flown by Air National Guard pilots from the Midwest as well as some U.S. Navy pilots.
The training will include both day and night flights and dropping of 500 lb. live bombs.
Sgt. Maj. Kent Smith, from Camp Grayling, said that community leaders, business owners, and emergency services will be updated when training occurs after dark. Radio announcements will also be made to communicate training plans to the public.
“Unfortunately, there will be some nighttime stuff, but they try to mitigate that as much as possible by putting that information out there so people can anticipate it,” Smith said.
Operation Northern Strike 2019 will be getting up to full strength at the same time the AuSable River Canoe Marathon will be taking place on Saturday, July 27.
Crawford County Commissioner Cary Jansen raised the concern of military traffic and troops causing conflicts with canoe marathon spectators.
Lt. Col. Brian Burrell, the deputy garrison commander, said that soldiers will be ordered not to go into Grayling from July 26 through June 28.
If major movements involving tactical vehicles, equipment, and fuel need to take place around the time of the canoe marathon, a detour will be established around the community. The military traffic would go down Military Road, onto Four Mile Road, and on to I-75 north to get to the training sites.
Military planners will also work with Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs and Grayling Department of Public of Safety Doug Baum if convoys need to go through the community.
“If green traffic wants to go through Grayling, we will coordinate with them on trying to stop traffic, get that green traffic through, and get them out of Grayling,” Burrell said.
Soldiers, however, who are off duty could possibly be bussed into town for the canoe marathon and other activities.
Smith witnessed the start of the canoe marathon last year.
“That was awesome. It’s amazing. It’s a rock star event,” Smith said. “The idea is to get them to spend their dollars inside town, so that they can help you, too.”
There is a budget of $8,000 to $10,000 to pay for signage to designate routes for military traffic. There will also be high presence of Military Police patrols in the community.
Retired Camp Grayling Commander Gary McConnell said that police officers, state troopers, and DNR conversation officers can also be deputized to enforce laws while they are on military police duty.
“You’ve got a number of people that can enforce the state laws off post,” McConnell said.
Camp Grayling has contracted with the Frederic Fire Department to provide fire protection services 24/7 for the four-month training period at its main cantonment area.
The Grayling Fire Department was also contracted to provide airfield air crash and rescue, structural fire protection, and hazmat release services at the Grayling Army Airfield.
CSI Emergency Apparatus, Inc. in Grayling has built two brush fire trucks to put out wildfires on Camp Grayling land as well as two command and control command vehicles for $700,000.
“That’s money going back into that business and they’re a busy shop to begin with,” Burrell said.
Crash and rescue trucks and two tankers will also be delivered to the Grayling Army Airfield for the training season.
Burrell said the military will be spending $11.3 million for the upcoming training season and soldiers will spend an estimated $775,000 at local business.
“That’s win-win for the business in the community as well as for the soldiers,” Burrell said.
Earlier this year, a Camp Community Council was created with local officials and military leaders which meets monthly. The purpose of the council is to address issues between the military and the public.
Leaders are also working on a Joint Land Use Study for Camp Grayling and the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center.
While Alpena mainly consists of an airport, noise mitigation is a concern being addressed in the Grayling area.
“The big thing with us is we have a lot of real estate and great ranges, and that creates a lot of noise with ordnance and the strafing of bullets,” Burrell said.
Hallenbeck said the military is seeking to work with local townships and counties so that no major housing developments may be created where future training ranges could be built.
“It’s just working together to communicate,” he said.