ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Fifteen soldiers and civilians from the 20th Support Command recently traveled to Jordan to take part in a major bilateral exercise.
Eager Lion 2011, held June 11 – 30, was a bilateral strategic cooperation exercise between Jordan and the U.S. that focused on irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency. Part of U.S. Central Command’s Cooperative Defense Program, it was designed to help participants prepare for current security challenges during deployments in support of global contingency operations in joint and interagency environments.
The 20th SPT CBRNE personnel, who participated in the exercise in Jordan from June 20 – 28, shared their chemical biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives experience and expertise with their Jordanian counterparts. They presented seminars and held capability and table-top exercises with Jordanian forces on CBRNE issues and provided counter IED survivability.
“We demonstrated the 20th’s capability to cover the entire CBRNE spectrum from the national strategic level all the way down to the tactical,” said Lt. Col. James Parrack, chief of Weapons of Mass Destruction Element 4 and team lead.
One tactical portion of the exercise the 20th team advised on was in the explosive ordnance disposal domain with a focus on improvised explosive devices.
“Soldiers from the 20th helped prepare the Jordanian EOD soldiers to survive in an IED environment,” Parrack said. “This professional development increases the Jordanian soldiers’ awareness of IEDs and ultimately increases their survival in a theater of operations where IED’s are a threat.”
Approximately 60 Jordanian EOD technicians aligned with several soldiers from the 71st Ordnance Group from Fort Carson, Colo., to receive classroom instruction on the hazards of IEDs and listen to EOD technicians share recent combat experiences and lessons learned.
“Eager Lion 11 has allowed the EOD camaraderie that’s found amongst all services in the U.S. to be extended to the Jordanians and expand the EOD brotherhood that all soldiers value and respect,” said Sgt. Major Juan Ponce, counter IED lead, following the exchange of information.
“Bilateral exercises allow EOD soldiers of the world to come together in an effort to stay ahead of the ever changing and fast growing IED threats found within our own nations and theaters of war.”
With about 3,000 Jordanians and U.S. participants, in addition to contributors from 14 other countries spread across six different locations as part of the exercise, it might have been easy to get lost in the shuffle. But Ponce was proud of the impact the 20th SPT CBRNE teams made in the exercise that was geared toward enhancing operational readiness, quick deployment and rapid response in crisis.
“We’re in the crawl phase of ‘crawl, walk, run,’ with some of the subject matter,” the sergeant major said. “Our intent was to expose the Jordanians to some of the CBRNE-related material. After each EOD obstacle, for example,” Ponce said, “we’d do an immediate after action review where we’d go over the actions their soldiers took, then said, ‘this is the way we do it.’” All the instructors involved have two to three deployments worth of experience already, he said.
The 20th SPT CBRNE soldiers were also able to brief senior Jordanian Defense Force officials on different aspects of the CBRNE Response Team, the identification of biological agents and material, as well as a host of weapons of mass destruction-related issues.
Following an overview of the CBRNE Response Team’s organization and capabilities, attendees were invited to examine and operate each of the equipment items, according to Elmore Smoak Sr., senior CRT lead, making the event at the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center a “hands-on” experience. He said Jordanians from their army, police force, chemical support units, civil defense and Nuclear Regulatory Commission also attended a radiological table-top exercise where radiological subject matter experts from the 20th offered information on topics like the technical aspects of radiation decay and protection methods that included using robots and armored vehicles for detection and sampling operations, as attendees worked through the scenario.
In addition to the radiological table-top exercise, a biological one involved discovery of an unknown, powdery, white substance that had the Jordanians discussing everything from coordination of response from their Ministry of Defense and other civil authorities, to how to keep the public informed.
“The representatives from the different Jordanian organizations had lively exchanges on how to manage the situation from a unified approach,” observed Col. Mark Lovell, 20th command surgeon.
After the interaction, which both countries deemed a success, the 20th teams conducted their post operation checks and inspections of all their equipment, repacked their gear, then returned to their duty stations—Ft. Lewis, Wash., for the CBRNE Response Team; Ft. Carson, for the EOD soldiers; and Aberdeen Proving Ground for the radiological, biological and headquarters subject matter experts.