Troops prepare for battle at Southern Strike

Troops prepare for battle at Southern Strike
The session is a large-scale, joint multi-national combat exercise. (Photo source: WLOX)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Hundreds of military personnel from various branches throughout the U.S. are gathering for Southern Strike 2018, a life-like battle training session at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center.

The session is a large-scale, joint multi-national combat exercise, that provides tactical-level training for the full spectrum of conflict.

It's part of what director Col. Brandon Haynie with the Mississippi National Guard describes as an invaluable experience.

"The value can't even be measured. The fact that troops leaving here now will be trained, let's say the 99 percent. The last percent is the unknown," said Haynie. "We can't really replicate what happens in a combat environment. But when they leave here, they'll nearly face the same situation, the same environments they face overseas."

The training emphasizes air dominance, maritime operations and support, precision engagement and personnel recovery.

Flight nurse. Lt. Col. Teri Kneely says crews are able to get used to several different types of planes ahead of real combat.

Kneely added, "They'll come here and we'll put them through various flight and medical scenarios. We'll put them on at least three different airframes to include the C-17 which you see here, the C-130 and the KC-135."

She feels confident that the training exercises prepare our troops well for what they'll actually face overseas.

"With this being a contingency setting, I don't think you can get this anywhere else," said Kneely.

According to the Mississippi Air National Guard, Southern Strike is based out of the Gulfport CRTC, but most range operations occur at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, from Oct. 23 to Nov. 3.

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