174th Infantry Brigade returns from Eager Light 2011
Lt. Col. Eric Stetson, 174th Infantry Brigade operations officer, and Staff Sgt. Walid, linguist and trainer mentor, discuss the Jordanian forces distribution and movement plans during the Eager Light 2011 joint forces exercise March 22 in Amman, Jordan. (Courtesy photo edited for security purposes/Released)
by Capt. Antonia Greene
174th Infantry Brigade Public Affairs Office
4/21/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- More than 30 Soldiers from 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East served as trainer mentors for the joint coalition 2011 Eager Light exercise in Amman, Jordan alongside the Jordanian Princess Ali Brigade, March 11 through 31.
Eager Light, a brigade-level collaborative command post exercise, fosters increased foreign service interoperability, strengthen military relations and exchange current and effective warfighting tactics, techniques and procedures. CENTCOM and Third Army/U.S. Army Forces Central Command directs this annual mission which is held mainly at the U.S. Central Command funded Jordanian Armed Forces Simulations Center.
This year's Eager Light exercise focused heavily on counter-insurgency, the driving force behind current U.S. contingency operations. This type of complex asymmetrical conflict requires more than conventional warfare tactics - you have to think "outside the box", according to Lt. Col. Hugh Lee Elmore, 1st Battalion, 307th Stryker Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade commander.
"Key leader engagement is critical," said Elmore. "COIN involves getting to know the people, engaging the public, breaking bread, even going to prayer with local and regional decision makers."
Elmore and his team of officers and noncommissioned officers of 1-307th were assigned as trainer mentors to the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Princess Ali Brigade for the duration of the mission. The Soldiers spent the first two days in refresher classes on culture, customs and operating in a joint environment. They then moved to practical applications of COIN, civil military operations and maximizing command and control in an Afghan environment scenario.
"One-on-one mentorship - the days were spent observing and coaching and I was thoroughly impressed with our Jordanian counterparts making operational adjustments each evening and ready for more training each morning," said Elmore.
"They were eager to learn, no pun intended," added Sgt. 1st Class Virgil Gross,1-307th intelligence analyst. "They were quick to make changes and adapt - once they go forward, they will fit right in and continue to grow."
Elmore, with ten combat tours, shared his experiences in Afghanistan with the 39th Inf. Bde commander. He emphasized the importance of integrating joint assets and using all available force enablers to maximize effectiveness. He said this exercise was his fifth foreign-Army combined mission and ultimately the most notable.
"They are professionals; they better understand the culture in Afghanistan - the fundamental beliefs - they are Muslim brothers," Elmore said. "They have my faith, trust and confidence, and I would fight beside the 39th any day of the week."
In addition to the CPX, the cultural actions and as-you-go learning points added significant value to the overall experience, explained Lt. Col. Eric Stetson, 174th Infantry Brigade operations officer. Stetson served as the exercise coordinator and chief liaison, making several trips to Jordan prior to the start of 2011 Eager Light.
"It was particularly meaningful to our Soldiers, continuing our relationships with the Jordanian Army and learning from the content of the exercise and operating in a non-standard environment," said Stetson.
The trainer mentor mission is a two-way street. He shared how professional development - learning - goes both ways.
"The Jordanian senior leaders encouraged their junior leaders and noncommissioned officers to take a positive and aggressive attitude towards learning," said Stetson. "They appreciated the mentorship and related it directly to the mission."
Stetson, Elmore and Gross all lauded the 174th linguists as both exercise participants and cultural advisors. The leaders and Soldiers of the 174th were offered the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, the Jordan River and Petra.
Staff Sgt. Walid, one of five linguists of 2nd Battalion, 310th Training Support Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade helped build rapport and allow Soldiers to experience the Jordanian culture first hand through organized cultural tours.
"Seeing the culture and commonalities under the umbrella of Islam helps our forces comprehend not only how tribal systems operate but serves as a gateway to understanding the fundamental cultural aspects that are important to COIN," said Walid. "As trainers we try not to over mentor but to allow our partners to make decisions and to negate their notion of war as singular and be comfortable as land owners."
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our Soldiers - to (observe and control) with a foreign Army and it's certainly rewarding both professionally and personally," said Stetson.