Eager Lion is a major bilateral strategic theater cooperation exercise between Jordan and the U.S. focusing on irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency. Eager Lion began in 2011 as an offshoot of the Infinite Moonlight exercise in Jordan. The exercise is part of US Central Command's (CENTCOM) Cooperative Defense Program and was designed to help participants prepare for current security challenges during deployments in support of global contingency operations in joint and interagency environments. The first Eager Lion exercise was paired with the second phase of Infinite Moonlight 11, Infinite Moonlight 11.2. Eager Lion 11 was intended to be a proof of concept for the planned Eager Lion 12, and planning for the annual exercise had begun in 2010. By 2012, Eager Lion was the largest annual exercise in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Exercise Bright Star in Egypt had previously been the largest the exercise in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
Eager Lion 11
Eager Lion 11 was conducted between 11 and 30 June 2011. The exercise was designed to help participants prepare for current security challenges during deployments in support of global contingency operations in joint and interagency environments. The exercise involved about 3,000 Jordanians and US participants, in addition to contributors from 14 other countries spread across 6 different locations as part of the exercise.
Personnel from the US Army's 20th Support Command (CBRNE) participated in the exercise from 20 to 28 June 2011. During this period they 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. This included a tactical portion of the exercise, during which the team from the 20th Support Command advised their Jordanian EOD counterparts on the explosive ordnance disposal domain with a focus on improvised explosive devices. Approximately 60 Jordanian EOD technicians aligned with several soldiers from the 71st Ordnance Group from Fort Carson, Colorado to receive classroom instruction on the hazards of IEDs and listen to EOD technicians share recent combat experiences and lessons learned.
Eager Lion 12
Held in May 2012, there were 19 nations participating in Eager Lion 12, including: Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States. Eager Lion 12 was designed to promote cooperation and interoperability among more than 11,000 participating troops, build functional capacity, and enhance readiness. Trainings related to Eager Lion 12 were conducted between 7 and 28 May 2012, but was only officially opened on 15 May 2012. All 4 major branches of the US military were represented during the exercise, including members of the special operations forces community, such the US Navy SEALs.
Seabees from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 completed construction on a joint operations center on the grounds of the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center on 5 May 2012 in preparation for Exercise Eager Lion 12. The facility would house different offices that would be used to coordinate and guide day-to-day operations of units participating in Exercise Eager Lion 12 under the direction of Combined Joint Task Force Spartan.
Marines from the tank platoon of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and tank crewmen with the Royal Jordanian Army spent 7 May 2012 conducting a live-fire training exercise in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as part of Eager Lion 12. The training focused on preparing the Marines’ M1A1 tanks and Jordanians’ Challenger 1 tanks for the future training they are scheduled to conduct during Eager Lion. The training also provided the Marines and Jordanians with the opportunity to work together, see each other’s tanks, learn each other's procedures and develop cohesion.
US Air Force F-15C Eagles from the 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 346th Air Expeditionary Group arrived at Mwaffaq Al Salti Air Base in Jordan on 8 May 2012, in support of Exercise Eager Lion 12. For the 346th Air Expeditionary Group, Eager Lion 12 provided a unique opportunity to train and fly with the Royal Jordanian air force across a varying spectrum of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. After the aircraft arrived, the American pilots were brought to the Royal Jordanian Air Force's No. 1 Fighter Squadron's headquarters, where their Jordanian counterparts briefed local airspace restrictions, airfield traffic flow, and the capabilities of RJAF F-16 aircraft.
The 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Maritime Raid Force, assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, participated in combined training with the 77th Jordanian Reconnaissance Battalion on 12 May 2012 during Exercise Eager Lion 12. The training consisted of sharing ideas and mission objectives to combine resources and strengths for future operations, including the use of sniper rifles.
On 15 May 2012, Major General Awni El-Edwan, Jordanian Armed Forces operations and training chief of staff, and US Army Major General Ken Tovo, head of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and acting as the Combined Joint Task Force Spartan commanding general, held a joint press conference to coincide with the official beginning of Exercise Eager Lion 12. During the press conference, the 2 Generals clarified that the exercise had no connection with any real-world events, including the unrest in Syria. The official press release for the exercise, however, stated that the exercise's scenarios were designed to portray realistic, modern-day security challenges. The scenarios had been designed years in advance to fulfill collaborative training goals.
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