June 11, 2014 —
AQABA, Jordan - In a recent speech at the Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel talked about his vision for developing strong partnerships, he said, “We want our Soldiers, our Sailors, our Airmen and Marines active around the world, deploying with greater frequency and agility, with the skills and expertise needed to build security capacity in each region.”
From May 25 to June 7, 2014, U.S. Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen worked toward that end with service members from more than 20 partner nations at the Jordanian-hosted exercise, Eager Lion.
At a military base near Aqaba, members of Jordan’s 99th Armoured Brigade, U.S. Marine Corps Command Element Marine Forces Central Command Forward (CE MARFOR CENTCOM (FWD)), U.S. Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, the U.K.’s 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines, and staff officers from Australia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia joined to form the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), which is responsible for all land forces during the exercise.
“They’re the experts on what their services bring. They also bring a different perspective to problem solving,” said Maj. Jerry Willingham, current operations officer at CE MARFOR CENTCOM (FWD). “By having our partners on the floor it allows us to be more efficient, play to each partner’s strength, and really synergize our efforts.”
The exercise is designed to encourage interoperability by having participants respond to a notional crisis while planning in a multinational environment.
“The total is always greater than the sum of its parts and by partnering we get smarter and stronger,” said Willingham. “Every time we do an exercise like this the Marines walk away with different ideas, different approaches different methods to problem solve, and I know that we share different tactics, techniques, and procedures with our partners that make them better.”
During the exercise, the CFLCC worked through a variety of scenarios that brought all members of the staff together to develop plans that could be executed by members of Jordan’s Prince Talal 5th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, the U.K.’s 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, the U.S. Marine Corps’ 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade, approximately 187 km away in South Eastern Jordan. The result of that investment in time and intellectual capital was a combined-arms live-fire exercise on June 5, bringing all the ground forces together to demonstrate the value of exercise Eager Lion to leadership from each of the participating nations.
“There was true cooperation out there, but that cooperation was fostered over the course of 10 days of training together, eating together, sharing the deprivations of the field together, working in concert to understand each other’s weapons capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Gregg Olson, commander, CE MARFOR CENTCOM (FWD). “Watching it all come together while standing with Brig. Gen. Ali Al-Domi was particularly satisfying.”
Brigadier General Olson was the commander of the land forces for this exercise, but all planning was closely coordinated through his Jordanian Armed Forces counterpart Brig. Gen. Ali Al-Domi, commanding general, 99th Armoured Brigade.
“With the guidance of His Majesty King Abdullah and our chief of staff General Zaben, we are honored to train with our brother nations,” said Al-Domi. “To conduct an exercise of this size and to exchange experiences with all the participants is a great honor. From the soldier to the commanders, we have had a good understanding at all levels of the forces on the battlefield.”
Training of this nature is intended to foster relationships between individuals while refining military techniques, improving communication between people who speak different languages, and operate different kinds of equipment that have varying capabilities. Building relationships on a personal level requires time, humility, open communication, and the ability to understand other people’s perspectives. It is more art than science.
“Brig. Gen. Ali Al-Domi is a mechanized officer and I’m a straight legged infantry officer. He had things to teach me about armor employment. I had things to teach him about infantry employment. We both are experienced combat arms officers, but we both learned something about air employment together,” said Olson. “It was immensely satisfying to hear the good things his higher headquarters had to say about his accomplishments and the accomplishments of his soldiers.”
For spectators, the exercise concluded after the combined-arms live-fire exercise which took place on June 5, but Marines, Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen from each participating nation have been exchanging small gifts and contact information to continue communication and maintain relationships after they depart Jordan, and Exercise Eager Lion 2014 is completed.
Eager Lion is a recurring, multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability between partner nations and enhance regional security and stability.