Camp Grayling celebrates 100th anniversary

This past Saturday marked the 100th Birthday of Michigan’s Camp Grayling.
Camp Grayling is the main Army National Guard training camp in the Midwest. Soldiers from all over the country come here and train on a regular basis.
Camp Grayling is huge, I got lost on base just trying to find the celebration.
Colonel Erich Randall is the Commander of Camp Grayling.
“Camp Grayling is the largest Army Guard installation in the country, we’re 147,000 acres, which is pretty darn big if you ask me, we span over three counties and we go all the way up to Gaylord and way, way down south of here too,” Randall said.
I had the opportunity to tour the camp, and see some of its newer additions.
Over the last hundred years, Camp Grayling has made a lot of changes. Staff Sergeant Helen Miller been working and training at the camp for 30 years
“In the beginning I slept in a tent, you know, on the ground, maybe on a cot, where now I have the opportunity to sleep in a barrack with a bed and air conditioning and bathrooms, I mean it’s a huge difference, times change, and so does the base have to change, so does the way the troops train have to change,” Miller said.
Apart from a new set of Barracks, a mess hall and a new classroom, Camp Grayling is investing lots of effort in the construction of new training facilities.
A state-of-the-art Infantry Squad Battle Course has been put in, the first of it’s kind.
It’s a square building, and the inside is set up like a house, with rooms full of foam furniture that are occupied by dummies armed with fake guns. 
Speakers, cameras and sensors allow soldiers to play out scenarios and track their progress.
Lots of other training happens here too. Staff Sergeant Miller said at Camp Grayling you can learn to do just about everything.
“You can learn how to shoot, you can learn how to drive, like special vehicles, you know, humvees the different vehicles that we use, any kind of training, we have distance learning centers, you can do online training, we can do computer training, any kind of Army training that needs to be done here can be here and any kind of weather because we have four seasons in Michigan,” Miller said.
Another part of the tour takes us into what looks like a ghost town; it’s a simulation of a village with concrete shells of buildings, a church, an apartment building, a school, jailhouse, an embassy building, and others.
This town is set up for training exercises so that real situations can be replicated.
Colonel Randall said soldiers that have trained at Camp Grayling over the last hundred years have gone on to fight and defend our country in many ways. 
“This goes back the whole hundred years of Camp Grayling. We’ve trained soldiers here who’ve fought in every one of our nation’s wars, every single one and in this last set of wars that we’ve had going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Michigan National Guard’s contributed significant numbers of the troops for that, thousands and thousands of soldier have gone and fought for their country.” Randall said.
From overhead in a Blackhawk helicopter, you can see just how big Camp Grayling really is, and all the firing ranges, buildings, facilities and wilderness that surrounds it.
The camp was open to the public for its one-hundredth birthday, and shows and tours were scheduled all day. The event was completely corporate sponsored, in what Colonel Randall says is an effort to be fiscally responsible.
He said Camp Grayling’s operating costs are, on average, less than one third of those an ordinary Military installation. Despite the low costs, Randall said the camp is still one of the best in the country.
“The installation is among the Army’s best, and I’m not just bragging here but it really is, when we rack and stack against every Army installation, there’s hundreds of them in the country as you can imagine and around the world, 27 of them were nominated to become regional collective training facilities and Camp Grayling is one of those, so were one of the Army’s top 27 installations,” Randall said.
The Camp’s long history and impressive credentials make it an important asset to our country. Staff Sergeant Miller said the camp also becomes like a second home to soldiers.
“When you’ve been coming to the same place for 30 years, you don’t live here but it’s like you live here. Where you’re from you say where you’re from but also say Grayling because I’ve come here every year for 30 years,” Miller said. 
The centennial celebration of Camp Grayling will continue in August with Operation Northern Strike, a training exercise that will bring soldiers from a number of units together.

Corunna soldier to be laid to rest today

Governor Rick Snyder has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff today, in honor of Army Private First Class Shane Cantu of Corunna. He died August 28th in Afghanistan, at age 20.
Cantu was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Army Good Conduct Medal. 
Cantu was a 2010 graduate of Corunna High School, where he was a three-year starter on the school’s football team. He served in Germany and Italy prior to being stationed in Afghanistan.
A funeral service for Cantu will be held this evening at 5pm, at Corunna High School’s Nick Annese Field. 
Flags return to full-staff on Wednesday. They remain lowered tomorrow in honor of Patriot Day.

Alpena Air Show Commemorates Korean War Vets

The Alpena airshow is paying tribute to veterans of what’s called America’s “Forgotten War” this weekend. 
The “Wings over Alpena” show will be commemorating veterans from the Korean War by showing military and individually owned aircrafts from that era and fighter aircrafts used in the Korean war. 
Phil Agius is the Financial Director for Wings over Alpena.
“There will be all sorts of military vehicles out, got some stuff coming in from the Army, got an F-18 coming in from the Navy. So there’s all sorts of things to see out there.” Said Phil Agius.
Agius said the show is a way for the community to get together and pay respect to the lost soldiers. 

Levin sees progress in Afghanistan

Michigan’s Senior U-S Senator, Carl Levin, recently returned from a congressional visit to Afghanistan.

The senator said real progress is being made on the ground…

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Levin is no stranger to Afghanistan. He’s been closely monitoring the situation there since the beginning of the war, and he said things are improving…

“Militarily, they’re getting better. Progress is being made there. The Afghan Army is taking more and more territory under its control. It’s got over half now, another big chunk will be turned over in terms of major responsibility to them in the next few weeks, and the Taliban is losing ground. But the problem is still real, mainly because of the threat from Pakistan, where you’ve got a terrorist group, particularly called the Haqqanis. There’s a number of them, but this is the major one that has safe harbor in Pakistan, next door. And they come across to do the suicide bombing, or put on the road explosives, and then those that survive run back across the border. And that’s an ongoing problem. But in terms of overall security in Afghanistan, it is improving.”

“Senator, it seems like Pakistan is a major cause of the instability within Afghanistan. Is there anything we can do to better control the border between those two countries?”

“There’s going to be a much closer relationship between the border patrol and the Afghan Army. There’s going to be a greater coordination, and, I hope, a greater number of troops. But you can’t stop that border totally, because it’s a very very mountainous, long border. And there are going to be people slipping through. What’s needed here is for Pakistan to crack down inside Pakistan on these terrorist groups that live there, that everyone knows where they are and who the leaders are.”

We’re speaking with US Senator Carl Levin, just back from a congressional visit to Afghanistan. Senator, you were in Afghanistan at the same time as President Obama. He was there to sign an agreement outlining U-S involvement in that country after the war. Was the president’s visit a surprise to you?

“Oh yeah. We were there on a pre-arranged visit, Jack Reed, the senator from Rhode Island and myself. We’d been there many times, as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and he’s a member of the committee. We had this trip that was planned. It worked out just by chance that the president was coming to sign this agreement. We knew about it about three or four hours before it happened.”

Senator, what is the significance of that agreement?

“It’s a strong message to the Afghan people, that although we’re bringing out our troops, that we are going to support the continuing operations of their army and their police force. And that we’re not going to be abandoning them, even though we’re going to be bringing out all but a small fraction of our troops. They were abandoned after they kicked the Soviets out, and the Taliban took over. It’s a very small commitment to keep their army funded. It has to have outside support because they don’t have an economy which can support the size of the army that they need. But compared to our current costs, it’s a tiny fraction, worthwhile doing. And the signature on that document where the Afghan president welcomed, very much this kind of support to his own public, even though we’re foreigners and strangers, that the ongoing relationship which that agreement reflects is very much welcomed by the president.”

Carl Levin is Michigan’s senior U-S Senator. He’s also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He joined us from a radio studio in the U-S Capital Building in Washington, D-C.

Photo of Senator Carl Levin and Senator Jack Reed of Rode Island on their trip to Afghanistan, courtesy of Senator Carl Levin’s office.

Snyder visits troops in Afghanistan

By Rick Pluta & Zoe Clark

Governor Rick Snyder is in Afghanistan to visit Michigan Air and Army Guard units. The governor talked about the visit in a phone call Wednesday with reporters.
The governor said the visit has made him more committed to helping veterans after they return from overseas conflicts.

“So, I’m looking forward to finishing the trip, getting back and, working on efforts on the jobs front and everything else to support our veterans, our guards-people, and our reservists.”

There are about 14 hundred members of the Michigan National Guard serving in the Middle East. The governor has called for better services for veterans in special messages on healthcare and workforce improvement.   
Governor Snyder made the trip with the governors of Rhode Island and South Dakota. The governors have also stopped in Kuwait and head next to a U-S military hospital in Germany.  

Copyright 2010, MPRN

MI Guard soldiers to train military in Liberia

By Rick Pluta

Twenty five members of the Michigan National Guard are off to west Africa, where they will help train Liberia’s fledgling military force. The nation was established in 1822 by freed U-S slaves. It is now recovering from many years of civil war .

Captain Corissa Barton is with the Michigan Guard. She said the project is a welcome change from  the Guard’s normal deployments in recent years.  

“This just is not, especially in the last 10 years, our typical mission. We’re used to going to Iraq and Afghanistan, so being able to do something like this that’s a little bit different, the troops get excited about it.”

The Michigan Guard was assigned Liberia as a partner by the U-S military as part of a project to establish closer ties with emerging national governments. The Michigan team is expected to spend a year in Liberia. Its members come from units all across Michigan.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

Michigan house urges purple heart for brain injuries

The Michigan House of Representatives is urging the U-S Department of Defense to award Purple Hearts to soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

State Representative Kurt Damrow said all branches of the armed forces need to be consistent in awarding the Purple Heart.

“We now see that the Army has picked up on this, and we want to make sure that all branches of service do award the Purple Heart in the same manner. Now this is nothing that the State of Michigan is going to award, that is a federal honor. But we can make our presence known and our point known, that the State of Michigan supports our veterans in this awarding of the Purple Heart.”

A Concurrent Resolution urging the Department of Defense to award the Purple Heart in cases of traumatic brain injuries has been approved by the state house.

It still must be approved by the state senate.