Special Operators Build Coalition During Eager Lion

AMMAN, Jordan – Special Operations Forces (SOF) from fourteen nations joined U.S. and Jordanian SOF teams to participate in multiple training events as part of exercise Eager Lion 19 (EL2019), in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Aug. 26 – Sep. 5, 2019.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan hosted the ninth iteration of EL2019, which is U.S. Central Command’s premiere exercise in the Levant region. Eager Lion is a multilateral exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, promote regional security and improve interoperability with partner nations. The exercise took place at military training areas and other remote locations throughout Jordan.

During the training scenarios, the special operations forces worked side-by-side and as one team to build and sustain a collective ability to plan and operate in a complex environment.

One of the first opportunities to show joint capabilities between the partnered nations was the “Fly Away” event, which included loading U.S. and Jordanian aircrafts into a Qatari C-17 airplane.

“We loaded two UH-60L helicopters and one Royal Jordanian Air Force MD-530 into a Qatari C-17 aircraft,” said Sergeant 1st Class Stafford Cawley, a U.S. Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) non-commissioned officer in charge of Special Operations Aviation Detachment (SOAD). “This particular exercise helped increase capabilities, increase interoperability and build a stronger relationship with our partnered nations.”

Cawley said this was the first time he experienced performing air lift operations with the two coalition partners. He said the Jordanian and Qatari armed forces were excited to work with the U.S. Special Operations Forces.

“It was a very good opportunity to work with the U.S. and Qatari special operations teams,” said a Royal Jordanian Air Force member. “It was a joint effort to successfully complete the short-notice mission in a short time.”

The combined effort and relationship building continued to grow throughout the wide range of military operations during EL2019. Other SOF-related training events included counter unmanned aerial system training, vehicle interdiction, dive operations, global access and aerial resupply, direct action raids, UH-60 rappel and hoist, naval vessel visit board search seizure and other scenarios.

“The primary goal is to build camaraderie and foster a relationship with our partner nations to further our effort in regional security and stability,” said Lt. Col. John Hake, the Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group. “The bonding and creating of friendships between the Soldiers and officers with our Allies is what made this exercise a great success.”

At the end of the two-week exercise over 250 special operations parachute soldiers from ten nations participated in a joint multinational airborne operation, commonly known as the “friendship jump.” These nations included the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Brunei, Greece, Cyprus, Qatar, the United States and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Airborne operations provide conventional and special forces an advantage in their ability to rapidly insert combat power on the battlefield. Airborne operations require meticulous planning and precise mission execution, the friendship jump was no different.

“Planning both a joint and multinational airborne operation provided a multitude of logistical and safety challenges,” said 1st Sgt. Eric Carpenter, U.S. Special Operations Command Central Headquarters commandant’s senior enlisted advisor. “The primary concern was safety because we had Service Members from multiple nations jumping with a parachute that they were not accustomed to.”

Coordinating the logistics of moving personnel from a Jordanian Special Operations Base, to a Jordanian air base while using facilities controlled by disparate units made for complex coordination. This meant the planning team had to work closely with the host nation military to deconflict use of resources that would happen during combat operations.

Coalition partners found that the friendship jump was crucial because it allowed the partner nations to plan, coordinate and execute as one, which is key to building a good relationship.

“The friendship jump was very important because it symbolizes the culmination of the exercise as a whole,” said Maj. Rahimin Anin, the Contingent Commander for Brunei Special Forces Regiment. “Everyone came together and successfully completed the main objective of this specific exercise, which was friendship.”

Participating in Eager Lion delivered a clear message – relationships matter. Being CENTCOM’s largest and most complex exercise, Eager Lion 19 provided an opportunity to integrate forces in a multilateral environment, operate in realistic terrain and strengthen military-to-military relationships.

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