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American Forces Press Service

Jackal Stone Promotes Special Operations Partnerships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2012 – The scenario for the Jackal Stone 2012 special operations exercise taking place in Croatia reads like a Hollywood thriller.

A criminal gang infiltrated an industrial plant in the fictional nation of Freedonia, stealing nuclear, biological and chemical material to pass to a terrorist organization. Commandos from U.S. Special Operations Command Europe teamed up with special police from Croatia’s Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators and recover the material.

The recovery – following an action-packed mission – wasn’t the end of the story. An analysis revealed that the insurgents behind the plot had tentacles extending deep into Freedonia. They had to be stopped.

Freedonia turned for help to the United Nations, which in turn, called on NATO to intervene with military forces. NATO declined, citing force commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but urged individual member nations to form a coalition.

Eleven nations stepped forward, with the United States taking the lead. U.S. and Romanian company commanders command two ground task forces, and a Norwegian is leading the maritime component.

“We formed this coalition, and now we are going to take on the Freedonian insurgency problem,” Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Repass, commander of Special Operations Command Europe, told American Forces Press Service by phone from Croatia.

That sets the stage for Jackal Stone, an annual multinational exercise designed to build special operations capabilities and improve interoperability among European partner nations.

The two-part exercise began earlier this month with a bilateral U.S.-Croatian counterterrorism exercise and expanded into a multinational, multi-echelon counterinsurgency scenario that continues into next week.

About 700 U.S. participants are on the ground, working alongside special operators and enabling forces from 10 partner nations as they apply capabilities many have honed together in Afghanistan.

“To the extent possible, Afghanistan has informed everything that we are doing during this exercise,” said Repass, who serves as Jackal Stone’s coalition commander.

About 60 role-players, many portraying insurgents, add realism to the scenario.

“This is a live exercise, full up,” Repass said. “We have role players, people who have taken on the personas of insurgents and are living those personas. And we have multiple sources of intelligence collecting on these personas in the operating environment.”

That includes many of the intelligence sources in use in Afghanistan, including human intelligence and imagery from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead, he said. Participants also conduct post-mission analyses, applying biometrics from a database created especially for the exercise, and exploiting intelligence from seized cell phones and computers.

“So we have a very sophisticated operation at the tactical level that will feed intelligence upward, creating a much more robust intelligence picture,” Repass said. “At the same time, we are getting national-level Freedonian and international intelligence feeding into us, and we are pushing that down to the tactical units.”

While exercising as they would operate in a real-world scenario, the participants are improving their ability to work together as they apply what NATO calls “smart defense,” Repass said.

The basic premise is to leverage each other’s capabilities to build stronger teams to serve in a coalition or NATO operation, he explained. “You provide tactical units up to your level of ability and your nation’s willingness to do so, and you team up with another capable partner,” he said.

Repass pointed to the International Security Assistance Force special operations structure in Afghanistan as a tangible demonstration of that concept. Stood up about four years ago, it has grown to an estimated 2,000 operators from about 18 countries.

Jackal Stone is building on this capability, Repass said, strengthening participants’ collective ability to plan and execute combined and joint multinational operations with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies.

That’s fundamental to realizing the vision of Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, the Special Operations Command commander, of a special operations force network, postured for global challenges.

While ensuring special operations have the equipment and technical ability to operate together, Repass said the exercise helps strengthen the relationships that underpin their operations.

“One of the fundamental truths of this whole endeavor is that you can’t build trust in a crisis. You have to have long relationships, and this is strictly done in the human domain,” he said.

“The more we develop these relationships, the better we will work together in the future,” Repass said. “The more capable and interoperable our militaries are, the better we will be as a community to achieve common goals of security, stability and peace.”

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