The annual Northern Edge exercises in Alaska are beginning to take a new shape.

Starting this year, the exercise increased its focus on joint war-fighter training, with Pacific Command and Northern Command agreeing to share the exercise. The first joint exercise, which included some 600 Marines from the 1st Marine Air Wing, Okinawa, ended June 16.

Future exercises will focus on Pacific Command objectives during even-numbered years and Northern Command missions during odd-numbered years, according to a Northern Edge Joint Information Bureau news release.

Odd-year exercises also will focus on homeland defense.

“We decided 2004 would concentrate on PACOM missions,” said Air Force Maj. Houston Waring, Northern Edge air planner. Planning began last year, he said, after Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander, Pacific Forces, approved the focus.

PACOM’s objective is for military services to be able to operate jointly throughout the Pacific, the major said.

“This year we are doing our training over water and land,” he said. “The large force over land gives air crews the opportunity to drop concrete bombs, which is something we can’t do over water.”

This year, 9,000 active-duty and reserve members of the Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Army and National Guard took part in the exercise.

“NORTHCOM objectives for Northern Edge ’05 will focus upon homeland security and homeland defense,” Waring said. “In odd years the military works with federal, state and local government agencies.”

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