AMMAN, Jordan –
Exercise Eager Lion, a “keystone event” between the strategic partnership between the U.S. military and Jordan Forces, commenced for a seventh year on May 7.
Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, deputy commanding general of operations for 3rd Army/U.S. Central Command, spoke with reporters at the Jordan Special Operations Command alongside his Jordanian counterpart, Brig. Gen. Khaled Shar’rah, director of the Jordan Armed Forces Joint-Training Directorate.
Eager Lion is the largest U.S. Central Command exercise and is designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Jordan. International partners participate in biennial iterations of the exercise.
Approximately 7,200 military personnel, including land, maritime, and Air Force troops from more than 20 nations, are participating, making 2017 the largest involvement to date. Beyond Jordan and the U.S., partner nations include Italy, Pakistan, Belgium, France, Lebanon, Australia, Britain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kenya, Greece, Poland, Japan, Taiwan, and the Netherlands. Military members will be responding to scenarios involving border security, command and control, cyber defense, and battlespace management.
For the first time, this year’s exercise will also include a global strike mission, conducted by two U.S. Air Force B-1B “Lancers.” The aircrafts will embark on a non-stop, 35-hour, 14,000-mile flight over Jordan and will have to refuel four times while in flight.
Preparation for this year’s large-scale, complex iteration, which lasts May 7-18, began immediately following 2016’s Eager Lion conclusion, according to Shar’rah.
“The size of participation this year has become as an outcome of our dedicated concerns to exchange the expertise of military commanders and all strategic, operational and tactical levels. These circumstances, that the region and the world are experiencing, which are related to terrorism dangers that distort our divine religion, urge us to combine the effort, the joint-cooperation and exchange of expertise in order to counter terrorism in all its forms and types,” Sha’rah said.
“As brothers in arms, we fully understand how much our nations have paid in blood and treasure over the years to address security, particularly in this region. Our biggest challenge extends beyond borders, domains acceptable to armed conflict for much of the past two decades our military have operated in the grey zones of military confrontation, unique range of activities, short of conventional war, where misunderstanding and miscalculation can easily escalate into a larger conflict,” Hickman said.
For the U.S., Eager Lion serves as an excellent venue to pursue engagement with the Jordanian and international forces to better address common threats to regional security at the operational level, according to Hickman. The common theme is having a collective interest in prevailing against the most complex challenges together.
Eager Lion helps to clarify how to plan and execute joint operations in unconventional environments and coordinate between military troops, agencies, ministries, and governmental and non-governmental agencies.
“In the last years, Jordan has dealt with an influx of refugees from neighboring countries, infiltration operations and terrorist operations,” Shar’rah said. “Because of this, the aim of this exercise will be to enhance the principle of partnership and to sustain interoperability among the stparticipating countries, improve the capabilities and develop an alliance with high capacity to respond quickly to counter terrorism threats and deal with refugee displacement and humanitarian-relief operations.”
Military-to-military engagements, such as Eager Lion, demonstrate the value of working in unfamiliar environments and organizational interoperability and working through combined command and control challenge, integrating systems and developing processes to work together and strengthening relationships and trust.
“To our Jordan Armed Forces, I speak on behalf of our participating nations in thanking you for your legendary hospitality. Jordan is a valued partner, a source of stability and hope. Without you, leaders and members of the Jordan Armed Forces, this exercise would not be possible,” Hickman said. “Together our nations have invested resources to prepare our military forces to pursue opportunities during this keystone event so we can prevail against our adversaries tomorrow.”