GULFPORT, Miss. - Southern Strike 2018 couldn't operate without the Armed Forces Joint Staff Military Intelligence Service creatively planning and organizing realistic missions individually tailored to participating units.

The Military Intelligence Service, or the J2 Shop, is in charge of planning and guiding the training missions during Southern Strike 2018.

"What we've done is basically take the overall picture, all the ground teams, we've set up a scenario and what we're trying to do is provide them intel that would realistically set up that mission and training event they want to accomplish," said Cpt. Jason Spradlin, the Military Intelligence Detachment commander of 2d Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, Mississippi Army National Guard. "For instance, if they wanted to run a mission on a hostage rescue, we're creating the intelligence on the back end to lead them to that scenario."

Although the Mississippi Air National Guard hosts Southern Strike 2018, units from other branches and states are participating and providing support in the operation.

"Generally, with exercises all over the country you're going to have different units from different states coming together because in an overseas environment you could be working with people from anywhere," said Air Force 2nd Lt. Whitney Norris, Tactical Air Control Party intelligence officer and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance liaison officer of the 165th Air Support Operation Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard. "I think it's good networking and good practice at working with people you haven't usually worked with before."

The J2 staff must work together to provide missions to service members of all the branches as well as from foreign militaries, which is good training for the participants for future missions that will involve multiple branches working together.

"Joint training is the reality they're going to face when they're out in the real world, running real missions," said Spradlin. "No service, whether it's the Army, Air Force, Navy, or Marines, operates independently at all anymore. The Army couldn't do what they do without the other branches and - in this exercise in particular, the air side - to provide support for the ground units."

The exercise is also good training for the J2 staff and they can bring back their knowledge and training to their home units.

"Being able to do this in a joint exercise is a particular benefit to me because I get practice coordinating with other units, helping them develop their mission planning, and also incorporating these scenarios into realistic training," said Norris.

On top of being an optimal joint training exercise, Southern Strike also allows the participating units to show off their skills and abilities while working together.

"I just think this is a good opportunity to showcase what not only the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard do, but also to be working with our Guard partners from other states, our active duty counterparts, and even partner nation forces to bring those together and show what we're capable of as a whole when we work together," said Spradlin.