Southern Strike military operation ends Thursday with record par - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Southern Strike military operation ends Thursday with record participation

Southern Strike featured every aircraft in the U.S. military inventory and flew more than 700 sorties. Photography courtesy of Southern Strike. (Photo source: WLOX News) Southern Strike featured every aircraft in the U.S. military inventory and flew more than 700 sorties. Photography courtesy of Southern Strike. (Photo source: WLOX News)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

For almost two weeks, the skies over the Gulf and South Mississippi were filled with military jets, planes and helicopters as part of the fourth annual Southern Strike.

The training, centered at both the Trent Lott Combat Readiness Center in Gulfport and Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, ended operations on Thursday.

But are they now battle ready?

“Absolutely,” said Major Gen. William Hill, the assistant adjutant general for the Mississippi Air National Guard. “We’ve done a great job. Had a great exercise this year, and gotten a lot of good training. In fact it was much larger than what we were able to accomplish last year.”

About 2,000 service members from both active and reserve units in every branch of the U.S. military service, participated in the joint international combat exercise.

During Southern Strike, participants trained in both traditional tactics as well as special operations.

Virtually every aircraft type in the U.S. military inventory participated with more than 700 sorties flown.

Lt. Col. James B. Haynie of the Mississippi  Army National Guard is an Apache helicopter pilot. He’s participated every year.

“We’ve grown exponentially every year to the point where we are now where I think we have more players, more sorties, more complex scenarios that better replicate what we may face when we go overseas.”

This is the first Southern Strike exercise for Maj. Robert Barkers, a refueling tanker pilot.

“It was I would say a fun opportunity to really get back in the plane and do what I love doing which is supporting the mission to get guys battle ready.”

Tech Sgt. Chase Edwards of Gulfport is responsible for direct patient care in what serves as a flying hospital.

“What’s great about this is we work with people from all over the world and definitely from other units that’s in our local area as well,” he said. “It gets us more familiar with other systems. Gets us more familiar with each other so that we can provide better patient care.”

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