About 800 service members from more than 20 states are in south Mississippi for a two-week training exercise. MPB’s Evelina Burnett has more.
"Thirty-12,000-hostile hot." Two pilots talk to each other during a training mission, part of a war game called Southern Strike, taking place through tomorrow throughout south Mississippi.
It's hosted by the Mississippi National Guard and brings together about 52 different units from every branch of the military, as well as civilian agencies like the FBI and a medical team from Biloxi’s Keesler Air Force Base.
Mississippi Air National Guard Colonel Craig Ziemba is the exercise director.
"You should train like you fight, and the reality is we fight together in a joint environment - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines - wwe all fight together downrange, so we ought to train together here stateside," he says.
So here’s the ripped-from-the-headlines fictional scenario: a U.S. ally, the nation of "Crimsonia" has been attacked by its neighbors, the "People's Bayou Republic" and "Rebelania." Crimsonia has asked for U-S support - providing lots of opportunities for different military scenarios.
"We have a large air-to-air battle that happens every day," he says. "Simultaneously, we have a special operations battle that happpens up the Pearl River and all over the barrier islands. And we also have an air-to-ground battle happening up at Camp Shelby."
Ziemba says the training gives the units a chance to fulfill their training requirements in one place. In an era of military belt-tightening, he says that helps save money too. Major General Augustus Collins is Mississippi's Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard.
"All of these units are going to go through training, either at their home station or somewhere else, another training base," he says. "To bring them all together here is actually less expensive than for them to do it individually, and you get more training opportunities out of it."
In addition to 800 participants at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, about 300 service members from nearby military bases also take part in the exercises daily.
Photo: Pennsylvania Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Bill Paull, a boom operator assigned to the 171st Aerial Refueling Wing, of Pittsburgh, Pa., refuels a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from a KC-135 Stratotanker during exercise Southern Strike 15 near the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, Oct. 28, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Barry Loo/Released)