GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Over the past week you may have noticed more military aircraft in the air space over South Mississippi. That’s because Southern Strike 2019 is now in full swing along the Coast.
For eight years, the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport has been hosting the Southern Strike joint training exercise.
It’s something CRTC commander Col. Joseph Reid sees as a way to incorporate teamwork between the services.
“We try to work on the interoperability between the two,” said Reid. “We try to do that full spectrum readiness. When they train together and then they deploy together down range, then they’ve had that chance to work together and try to get a better understanding of how each area works.”
This year's event includes over 1,800 service members from 51 different units across the country, as well as some international military partners.
Lt. Col. Ashley Sullivan believes being able to use each training base in Mississippi is an asset for Southern Strike.
“We’re able to use the existing training infrastructure throughout Mississippi, like Camp Shelby and Camp McCain, and utilize the full state resources,” Sullivan said.
The two week exercise includes air-to-air, air-to-ground and ground-force training. Throughout the event, adjustments are made to fine tune the training.
“We brief every morning at the start of the day, the missions prior and the missions coming up, so that we can identify some of those issues and try and correct them before we even take off,” said Southern Strike Exercise Director Col. Billy Murphy.
For units like the 204th Air National Guard from Hawaii, it’s a chance to train in ways they can’t at home.
“It’s really good training for us,” said CPT Evan Kurosu. “We come here, and we have a lot of opportunities to integrate with all the other forces like the Army, the special forces units. And it allows us to do our airdrop parameters, as well, which we don’t get to do much back home with users.”
Murphy calls it a perfect chance for each service to work together before they need to in a combat situation.
Southern Strike will continue in Mississippi through Wednesday, Jan. 30.