NEWS | May 20, 2015

Participants say coalition teamwork makes for successful exercise, key to future operations

By By Gunnery Sgt. Reina Barnett, Exercise Eager Lion Public Affairs

HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN, May 20, 2015 - As Eager Lion came to a close Tuesday, after about two weeks of training here, several senior participants said the exercise was a success, not just because troops gained tactical proficiency, but because it laid the foundation for working together in the future.

Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Abernethy, U.S. Special Operations Command Central senior enlisted adviser, saw several training events at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, and he said he noticed the synergy among the countries involved in the training scenarios.

"When you can get all these Type A elements, all of these elite counter-terrorism elements all in one place, and they all have their different ideas of how they're going to actually execute a mission and then get in one spot and have them work together, compromise and negotiate to accomplish the mission, that truly is the essence of what Eager Lion is all about," said Abernethy.

The multinational exercise concluded its fifth year, and Abernethy said the tactical execution of the missions also served to showcase units' interoperability. Eager Lion was designed to increase interoperability among coalition forces and facilitate responses to both conventional and unconventional threats.

Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick McCauley from U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N. C., echoed his counterpart's sentiments.

"The fact that you could take that many assault forces together with the language barriers and with the coordination that is required to pull that off and to do so as smoothly as they did, impressed us both," McCauley said.

One example showing different countries coming together was Poland's elite counter-terrorism unit being in the lead as the ground force planner for the noncombatant evacuation and embassy reinforcement scenarios.

Both Abernethy and McCauley agreed the missions were well planned and well executed.

Training together as a coalition not only increased efficiency, it allowed members to share tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTP's, which they may not have had in common.

Lt. Col. Patrick Vermer, a commanding officer in the Belgian army, said the most valuable part of the exercise was to train and execute missions with partner nations and was something they could not get in their home country.

"To execute our TTP's in a unique operational context [outside of a combined joint task force] down to tactical units, in a physically and culturally demanding environment, within a multinational context with elite troops, was a great opportunity," said Vermer.

"In three weeks' time here, we've collected an outstanding and incomparable experience, more than in one full year of training back home," Vermer said. "For our planners at the staff level and for our teams in the field, they had the opportunity to interact and coordinate with all their stakeholders."

The future of military operations relies on coalition teamwork, McCauley said.

"That's what ultimate success is going to look like," McCauley said. "It can't be the United States trying to solve problems. It's got to be a coalition of governments that together are holistically looking at the problems that are out there and looking for solutions."

Jordan and the U.S. joined with forces from more than a dozen countries during Eager Lion. Those partner nations included: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom. NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps also participated in the exercise.

Lt Col. Mohammed Al-Atiyat, a fighter controller with the Royal Jordanian Air Force, said everyone working together to achieve the same goal was inspiring.

"What I noticed was how armies from different countries get along together to achieve the same goal and try to understand each other to do their task," Al-Atiyat said. "Everyone worked together - the army, ground forces, air force and navy. The whole government worked toward the same goal. It was more efficient than working alone."

Regardless of the nation, the theme that resonated over and over was the same.

"At the end of the day, we see borders between countries, but the enemy doesn't see those borders," said Abernethy. "So any time we can work together as a team, we're going to be much more effective."

"The U.S. is not going to win alone. We have to win this fight through our partners. They have to be the ones in the lead across this region if we ever want to be able to effectively counter the violent extremist ideology we have going on right now," Abernethy said.

"This is an event where we can bring all of our partners together, build relationships, learn from each other, and go back to our respective countries and use those techniques we've learned,"

Abernethy said.

Some of those techniques were on display through the many training scenarios in various parts of the country. Partners conducted direct action drills; noncombatant evacuation exercises; a visit, board, search and seizure exercise; and smaller scenarios, such as personnel recovery, combat search and rescue, live-fire exercises and close-quarter battles.

U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Vigueras, lead operations officer for Eager Lion 2015, said the exercise's success was due to the input and assistance of coalition partners in the planning process.

"Everyone who had some part in the planning and execution of the exercise were valuable assets," Vigueras said. "The exercise was designed to test our joint interoperability, and we succeeded."

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Christopher Burns, assistant commanding general for U.S. Special Operations Command Central, said Eager Lion helped coalition partners better understand how to deploy their forces forward.

"With regard to real-world events, especially Daesh," Burns said, using the Arabic term for the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, "the exercise allowed our coalition (special operations forces) partners to build confidence and also allowed us to all share ideas from a SOF perspective."

Future wars, Al-Atiyat said, will not be between two countries, it will be a coalition effort. "We want peace with all our neighbors around us, but sometimes peace needs force, especially when other nations don't take (peace) seriously."

"It's exciting to see the training take place and tying and weaving it all together," Burns said. "This exercise proves for Jordanians in particular that their focus and resolve to work on their security, to reflect and begin to implement training is a serious commitment."

Through the myriad training scenarios Eager Lion provided, Burns said the participants learned exactly what was needed in the region by executing complex planning scenarios and collaborating together, realizing in the process that no nation alone can win this fight.

"The ability for Jordan to bring all these partners together is a testament to Jordanians that despite everything that's going on, their partners find value in joint training exercises like Eager Lion," said Burns.