GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The roar of military jets will fill the skies of South Mississippi for the next two weeks. Hundreds of military members from 52 different units will participate in an exercise called Southern Strike. The war game provides a unique opportunity for realistic combat training.
Southern Strike headquarters is at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport. Representatives from all branches of the military will take part in this exercise, which provides realistic training opportunities.
"A war games scenario that mirrors what's happening overseas right now. It includes a large air to air battle every day, air to ground, close air support missions. And it also includes special operations, riverine and coastal, all off the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Col. Craig Ziemba, the exercise director.
"We can get a lot more realistic coming to exercises here, than we can necessarily back at home," said naval training officer, Jaqueline Nordan.
Home for her is near Seattle, Washington. She's participated in Southern Strike before and says the benefits of training with other units makes it more than worthwhile to travel to South Mississippi.
"Well, it's extremely important. Because what it does is it gives us an opportunity to train for real world scenarios, before we go out there and execute our missions. Gives us an opportunity to refine our tactics, as well as work with the other organizations and units that are out here," said Lt. Nordan.
Jumping from a helicopter into Gulfport Lake is a part of Monday's training for these special operations forces. For the next two weeks, simulated combat scenarios will help prepare these participants for real world deployments.
"Get that experience, so that when something does happen for real, those air crew are more survivable and better prepared to do that mission the first time and do it right," said VAQ 135 commanding officer, Dave Moore.
"We've invited Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and they've all showed up. But you can be proud that it is a Mississippi led, Mississippi hosted event," said Col. Ziemba.
About 800 members of the military will be training from the main operating base in Gulfport. If you add the support personnel from other nearby military bases, around 1500 men and women will take part in the two week exercise.