If you’ve noticed more military equipment and vehicles than usual on Coast highways, it’s because nearly 4,000 troops from Alaska have been arriving to train at Camp Shelby this month.
Called Operation Arctic Anvil, it’s the first large-scale, no-notice military deployment exercise to be conducted on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The operation tests the strengths and capabilities of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) and the 25th Infantry Division from Anchorage, Alaska, the newest airborne brigade combat team and one of only six in the Army.
Troops arrived at the Port of Gulfport and the Port of Pascagoula, then traveled to Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg.
Operation Arctic Anvil will give “commanders and leaders a true assessment of a unit’s readiness and where additional training should be focused to refine processes to ensure absolute proficiency in the event they were called to support a Department of Defense mission,”according to a Mississippi National Guard news release.
Since being designated a strategic military port in 2015, the Port of Gulfport has supported multiple military missions. That designation means it can support military forces during deployments for national defense operations.
“We’ve been working for several years to become a strategic port. Ultimately, we were looking at the opportunity really to support our military forces,” Jonathan Daniels, CEO and executive director of Port Authority in Gulfport, said in the release.
Military officials say both Coast ports offer “enhanced capabilities” for active military that shortens transit time.
Maj. Gen. Janson D. Boyles, adjutant general of the state’s National Guard, said the operation is a joint effort that involves the Navy, the Marines, Air Force and Army.
“The Mississippi National Guard benefits in that we get to interact with our active-duty partners to ensure we have equipment moving in and out of this port,” he said. “There is a lot of good military training with this event and that is how we are going to have a lethal, well trained, ready and well led military for the future, by combining all of those assets into one.”
Gov. Phil Bryant also said he’s looking forward to the partnership between the state and the National Guard.
“Arctic Anvil will be coming to the state of Mississippi and I think showing not only this great state, but also the world how quickly they can move,” Bryant said in the release.
“It’s never been done before. This is a first between the Port of Pascagoula, Port of Gulfport and Shelby that’s been building the triangle of freedom.”
Troops will head back through the Coast ports at the end of October before returning to their home units.