News: Forging a friendship
Story by Staff Sgt. Andrew Porch
TABUK, Saudi Arabia – For the third time in five years, U.S. Forces conducted a joint exercise in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of Friendship and Ironhawk three at the Tactical Training Center in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, April 1-16.
Approximately 1,100 Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the New York National Guard participated in the two-week military-to-military exercise geared towards strengthening stability in the region and improving interoperability.
The exercise, which focused on a mixture of counter insurgency and full spectrum warfare, allowed the two sides to share tactics, techniques and procedures.
“As we worked our partnership piece with our counterparts, we began to evolve,” said 1st Lt. Edward Echohawk, platoon leader, Company A, 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd ABCT. “I think the exercise was good. It was different working with Saudis and from what I can observe, I would say the relationship has developed significantly. I think it definitely served a purpose.”
The two forces conducted exercises at multiple echelons, beginning at the brigade level and working its way down through battalion, company and platoon sized elements.
“I think we definitely bridged the gap of militaries of different countries,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Nicolosi, platoon leader, Company D, 1st Bn., 67th Armor Reg. “If we didn't establish some sort of tactical advantage out of this operation, we definitely set the foundation for future operations.”
The exercise allowed American Soldiers to not only interact with members of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, but also learn about their culture and history.
“They were very hospitable and wanted to sit down and get to know each other,” said Nicolosi. “Very welcoming and all about interaction between the Soldiers.”
The RSLF hosted a cultural event for the American Soldiers that featured folk dancing, a moment of prayer and dinner.
“It was amazing,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Wright, commander, 1st Bn., 67th Armor Regt. “The Royal Saudi Land Forces are tremendous hosts. They are very gracious. They shared with us their culture, their customs and their traditions. They essentially took care of us as one of their own.”
The Soldiers knew the experience of collaborating with the RSLF would not be easily forgotten.
“It was interesting to interact and see the similarities and differences and take away what we could from the joint exercise,” said Staff Sgt. Kris McGourty, armor crewman, Company D.
McGourty went on to say why it was important to relate with the Saudi soldiers on a personal level.
Being able to sit down and interact with Saudi soldiers allowed us to learn about them on a social level, making it easier to work together, said McGourty.
As the Soldiers interacted, they became closer and closer.
“The Soldiers loved it. They wanted more interaction than we were able to provide,” said Nicolosi. “We were able to interact without interpreters and they were very open to understanding us. I think we did a good job of being open to understanding them.”
As the event came to an end, it was evident the two forces had surpassed expectations of what could be achieved.
“If (Soldiers) had a previous understanding or idea that partnership wasn't possible or something that wasn't worthwhile, I think we definitely charged their mindset,” said Nicolosi. “Not only do we train similar ways, but we have similar goals both in this region and worldwide.”
The exercise set the stage for future events between the two nations and Soldiers are confident the relationships built will play a key role in upcoming interactions.
“I think we have a good impression on each other’s cultures and war fighting capabilities,” said McGourty. “I think, based on what happen here, it will enable better lessons learned for future Soldiers to come through and future Saudi soldiers to interact with U.S. Soldiers.”