Roughly 6,000 U.S. military personnel from different branches will take part in a joint training exercise on and over Alaska land and waters. The 2017 Northern Edge exercise kicks off in May, according to military officials.
The training is one in a series of U.S. Pacific Command-led exercises in 2017, and will run from May 1 to May 12 in Alaska.
“The exercise is designed to sharpen participants’ tactical combat skills, to improve command, control and communication relationships, and to develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Anastasia Schmidt, the director of public affairs for the Alaskan NORAD and Alaskan Command with the 11th Air Force, said in a statement about the event.
Personnel from the Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and the reserves will participate in the exercise, according to Schmidt, She called it the largest military training exercise scheduled to take place in Alaska this year, and said more than 200 aircraft from the various branches would be involved.
Previous Northern Edge exercises have been met with protests in cities and towns around the Gulf of Alaska, led by Alaskans concerned the training would negatively affect local wildlife, like whales. In 2015, that concern reached Congress, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require military leaders to communicate with communities near or involved in the training.
“U.S. Navy training activities are conducted with an extensive set of mitigation measures designed to minimize the potential risk to marine life,” Schmidt wrote. “The Navy has conducted Northern Edge in the Gulf of Alaska for many decades without major harm to the environment. Navy activities during Northern Edge are conducted with an extensive set of mitigation measures developed and authorized by permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service.”
She said further information about the analysis of the aerial and land-based military training activities in or near Alaska can be read online in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex Environmental Impact Statement. Maritime activities were reported in the Navy’s 2016 Gulf of Alaska Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.