Happy birthday, Camp Grayling

Camp Grayling, one of the premier military installations in the nation, celebrated its 100th anniversary this past weekend.

Camp Grayling covers 230 square miles, primarily in Crawford County in the northern Lower Peninsula. It is the largest National Guard joint training center in the U.S.

The camp hosts training not only for active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, but also more than 100 law enforcement agencies and units from Canada, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Serbia.

Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin participated in events held Saturday. The festivities included 1,500 soldiers presenting arms to the governor and Adjutant Gen. Gregory Vadnais.

Also, Levin announced $17 million in federal funds for a new dining facility and administrative offices at the facility.

“Camp Grayling is one of our nation’s best kept secrets,” said Col. Erich Randall, garrison commander.

“We provide tough, realistic joint and combined arms training for all four seasons. Reserve and active component commanders can utilize Camp Grayling’s Combined Arms Collective Training Facility, the Urban Assault Course, and the Live-Fire Shoot House that portray the complexity and human dimension of the modern battlefield. Camp Grayling has everything necessary to assist military leaders in developing trained, competent soldiers for full-spectrum operations.”

The camp was founded in 1913 on a land grant to the state from lumber baron Rasmus Hanson, and since then every major conflict the United States has fought in has featured troops trained on those hallowed grounds.

Saturday’s celebration, hosted by the Camp Grayling Historical Society, honored fallen Michigan soldiers with an emotionally moving 21-gun salute.

Chaplain Col. William Henson read each of the names of National Guard troops from Michigan killed in action, including Sgt. James D. Priestap of Hardwood, who was assigned to the 46th Military Police Company in Kingsford and died while serving in Iraq in 2006.

In her remarks to the gathering, Stabenow said the country’s strength comes from those willing to serve and their families’ willingness to serve.

“We will never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Stabenow said. “We have so much to thank all of you for.”

In the evening, a fireworks display was launched over the beautiful waters of Lake Margrethe.

Cell phone coverage was recently upgraded at Camp Grayling with the completion of a 235-foot self-supporting cell phone tower.

“The new tower expands cell coverage on Camp Grayling and provides backup communication to many of the range areas,” said Michael Morey, electrical engineer and energy manager for the Michigan National Guard. The tower was installed just in time for the anniversary.