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Latvian Capt. Armands Rutkis (left) and Cpl. Janis Gabranis (right), both Tactical Air Control Party specialists with the Latvian National Armed Forces, carry SrA. Lance A. Liggett to a medical evacuation point after a simulated roadside bomb explosion during Operation Northern Strike at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range, Mich., on Aug. 14, 2014. Air National Guard photo by SSgt. Lealan Buehrer. ​

Tactical Air Control Party specialists from the Illinois Air National Guard and the Latvian National Armed Forces joined in intense training scenarios during the recently concluded joint and multi-national Operation Northern Strike exercises. Northern Strike was a three-week National Guard-sponsored exercise at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in Michigan in which more than 5,000 US and coalition service members practiced the combined power of air and ground forces. The Latvian troops were familiar with both the Illinois ANG’s 169th Air Support Operations Squadron, because they had trained with the US airmen in Poland, and with Grayling as they had received their initial ATCP training there under their association with the Michigan National Guard under the Guard’s State Partnership Program. Latvian Capt. Armands Rutkis said they appreciate the ATCP training with their NATO ally because “you can get all of this knowledge from them” on different ways to perform the mission. The training “was very good,” said Air Force MSgt. John Oliver, a TACP team leader with the Peoria-based 169th ASOS. “It was intense at times, which allowed for pretty realistic combat scenarios for us to run through,” he said in an Air Force news release.