State’s biggest military training exercise takes off next week

Northern Edge military exercise in the Gulf of Alaska. (2016 file photo: U.S. Navy)

The skies above the Interior and Southcentral Alaska will get a lot busier starting next week, when Northern Edge 2017 gets under way. It’ll be the biggest military-training exercise to be held this year in Alaska.

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The tempo of operations around Eielson Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and the state’s training ranges, will pick up beginning Monday and last through May 12. But Alaskan Command spokeswoman Capt. Anastasia Schmidt said Northern Edge training exercises will be conducted only on weekdays this year.

“We will not be exercising on the weekend, however,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said some 6,000 personnel and about 180 aircraft from all the armed services will participate in this year’s exercise, which she said will be a bit smaller in scale than the 2015 iteration. She said the whole point of joint exercises that involve two or more services, like Northern Edge, is to provide training that enables people and equipment to work together.

“When we have these opportunities to do multiple services, we’re able to practice that interoperability,” Schmidt said. “And make sure when we do have to do a real-world operation,  we’re able to talk to each other, all of our equipment works well together – simple things like that.”

The airspace over the Gulf of Alaska also will be busier during Northern Edge, as Navy and Marine aircraft conduct training in conjunction with Navy vessels that’ll be operating in the gulf.

“There’s going to be two naval destroyers and one replenishment ship,” Schmidt said.

Personnel and equipment from the Coast Guard and Reserve and National Guard units also will participate. Northern Edge is one of a series of exercises conducted by the U.S. Pacific Command, a so-called unified combatant command that’s headquartered in Hawaii and operates throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Schmidt says residents who want to report excessive aircraft noise can call the Alaskan Command’s toll-free complaint line. That’s 1-800-JET-NOISE (1-800-538-6673).

Tim Ellis is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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