NEWS | May 23, 2016

Votel: Eager Lion 16 highlights U.S.-Jordan force integration

By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News

ZARQA, Jordan (May 23, 2016) — The most critical element of Eager Lion, U.S. Central Command’s largest military exercise in its area of responsibility, is the great integration between Jordanian and U.S. forces, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel said here Sunday.

The CENTCOM commander spoke with reporters at the Joint Training Center before observing events taking place on the seventh day of this year’s bilateral May 15-24 exercise.

“As you go through these command posts you'll see Jordanian officers and [non-commissioned officers] right next to our officers and NCOs working side by side and working through tactical and operational problems,” Votel said.

Eager Lion 2016

Eager Lion 2016 is a weeklong series of scenarios that simulate a coordinated, partnered military response to conventional and unconventional threats. Exercise areas include border security, command and control, cyber defense and battle-space management, according to a CENTCOM fact sheet.

About 6,000 service members are participating in the exercise, Jordanian Gen. Fahd al-Damen, director of joint training for the Jordan Armed Forces, told reporters -- 3,000 from each country. Military members from CENTCOM represent its air, land and maritime components.

At an exercise observation site near the Joint Training Center, Army Maj. Gen. Ralph H. Groover III, director of CENTCOM’s Exercises and Training Directorate, described events happening on the range below, where moving military vehicles created a temporary dust storm that blew over the observation center.

“We have a brigade maneuver on an armor range occurring here with an attack into a military operations urban terrain activity,” Groover said, “so this is a combined Jordanian and U.S. tactical movement on the range.”

Groover said the exercise has been multilateral most years although the first year, in 2011, was a U.S.-Jordanian bilateral exercise.

CENTCOM Partner Network

Now, he said, “we're going to alternate bilateral, multilateral every [other] year. Nineteen nations participated last year, and it’s looking like there will probably be more nations based on the interest we're getting on participation next year.”

“Another important thing we're going to see in this exercise,” Votel added, “is further implementation of the CENTCOM Partner Network, a common information architecture we put in place here that we've been building for a couple of years.”

The network is a CENTCOM initiative designed to increase lines of communication among coalition forces and Jordanian counterparts over a secured computer network.

According to CENTCOM, the combatant command began working to develop a coalition data-sharing network in 1999, and a version of the system was used and further developed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

In the following years the network has been refined, benefiting from technological advances in computing and computer security occurring as part of the DoD-wide development of the Joint Information Environment, or JIE -- what DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen calls a concept of modernizing and integrating all DoD networks and systems.

“This is the first time we've been able to roll it out in a big exercise like this,” Votel said. “We’re working through the bugs associated with that but in general [getting] pretty positive results.”

The Notion of Teamwork

In an interview with DoD News the day before the exercise, Votel said the notion of teamwork is important to him and to CENTCOM.

“One of my principal responsibilities is building relationships and building partnerships,” he said. “I certainly did that in the [special operations forces] world, and I certainly see the importance of doing it here when I'm now functioning not just as CENTCOM commander but as our coalition force commander” in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The nation’s greatest successes have been through coalitions, the general said, “where we've been able to work with our very best partners to accomplish important national and international objectives, so that's the way we operate.”

Each participating nation brings different skills, capabilities and authorities, Votel said, and mixing those together creates the very best outcomes.

“We simply, the United States, can't do all of this ourselves. We’ve got to leverage our partners,” he added.