Exercise unites US and Jordan in show of strength
Marines and sailors will wrap up an 11-day training exercise with Jordan on Thursday that aims to improve military cooperation with an allied country bordering Syria and Iraq.
About 3,600 American personnel have been taking part in Eager Lion. The array of drills includes simulated chemical attacks, an amphibious assault and an embassy evacuation.
“The Jordanians have a lot of capabilities, so we learn as much from them as they learn from us,” said Col. Farrell Sullivan, commander of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has 1,200 Marines participating.
Launched in 2011, Eager Lion enables the United States and Jordan to display aircraft, ships, firepower and the combined skills of 7,000 personnel in a show of power to adversaries, Marine Corps officials said.
Marines began the exercise with amphibious landings, while sailors conducted ship drills and pilots flew simulated combat missions.
Marines used urban and mountain combat tactics to get a feel for warfare in an austere desert environment, Sullivan said. The training complex in Amman has live-fire ranges, facilities for close-quarter fighting and large areas for longer-range patrols, he said.
“Often when you do training, you stay in a local area, so you don’t have a chance to use your legs,” Sullivan said.
Marines responded to simulated chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, he said, and they evacuated civilians from a mock embassy during a five-day portion.
Jordan is wedged between Syria, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — countries largely adversarial to one another — leaving it vulnerable to regional threats and making U.S. support essential, according to a Congressional Research Service report in February.
Jordan provides access to the Middle East in the fight against extremist groups such as the Islamic State, and it has taken in 600,000 Syrian refugees, said James Cook, national security affairs professor at the Naval War College.
“Multinational exercises like Eager Lion are an important, tangible way to demonstrate commitment and leadership in a strategically important region for U.S. national interests,” he said.