Operation Northern Edge gets underway around Alaska

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Operation Northern Edge gets underway Monday, with three major staging areas set around Alaska.

More than 10,000 Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard and reserve personnel will be participating in the exercise -- most of them working near Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force bases and around Ketchikan.

The exercise is scheduled to continue through April 4. The war games will be based on an economic dispute and invasion between two fictitious nations, with units acting as aggressors and as a joint peace enforcement force.

A number of air and ground maneuvers will be held in training areas Southeast of Fairbanks. That will include mass troop movements from Fort Wainwright, search-and-rescue missions for downed pilots, live bombings and close air support of Army and Marine Corps ground troops.

The exercises will stretch to the Lower 48 as well, with a B-52 bomber from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and two B-2 stealth bombers out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri flying to Alaska and dropping their loads before returning home without landing.

The B-52 will work with an Army Special Forces team on the ground to guide the bombs to their targets with lasers. ''This type of mission will be a first for Northern Edge,'' said Maj. Timothy Trefts, a spokesman for the exercise.

The waterborne portion of Northern Edge will center on the harbor at Ketchikan. It will test the Navy's abilities to secure and defend a port and conduct an orderly and efficient evacuation of civilians. That will include the use of several specially trained bottle-nosed dolphins.

''An exercise as comprehensive as Northern Edge 2001 allows all Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Guard and Reserve an opportunity to increase their joint operations effectiveness while overcoming extreme weather and environmental conditions,'' said Army Lt. Col. Brice Johnson, chief of the Alaskan Command Exercise Division.

Military personnel began arriving at Eielson last week to undergo cold-weather training, including troops from the Army's Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, special forces units from Fort Lewis, Washington, and Marines from Camp Pendleton in California.

More than 30 different units will be participating in the statewide exercise.

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