BEIRUT ― An annual drill involving U.S. and Jordanian military forces this year has included a number of first-time training exercises, most notably a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear exercise.

“This year’s CBRN scenario exercised U.S. and Jordanian forces’ ability to detect a simulated unknown material in a smuggling incident. Mobile laboratory teams were deployed to survey the area, collect and test samples, and then process through a decontamination line. These response teams were joint, meaning the teams were made up of both U.S. and Jordanian forces,” said Lt. Col. Nicole David, bilateral affairs officer for the Colorado-Jordan State Partnership Program.

About 3,600 U.S. service members participated in Eager Lion 2018 in Jordan from April 15-26. The exercise, which has taken place annually since 2011, included a number of other firsts, such as a basic skills course meant to help familiarize and professionalize junior leaders with the joint operational readiness process. This year’s exercise also included the introduction of a brigade-level training audience, which is usually conducted as a separate, smaller exercise, but this year was incorporated into Eager Lion.

The drill’s spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Thlaji, said April 15 that the exercise, which includes the participation of land, sea and air forces totaling about 7,000 troops, represents the United States and Jordan’s effort “at improving operational alignment between the Jordanian armed forces and the U.S. military, training in counterterrorism, border security and humanitarian operations, crisis management, strategic communications, and future planning.”

This joint exercise increased the role of the Combined Force Maritime Component Command based in southern Jordan, bolstering naval and land exercises that took place in multiple locations, including Jordan’s special forces training center, the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre.

It also reinforced teamwork between both the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and their their Jordanian counterpart, the National Center for Security and Crisis Management ― ultimately the lead organizations for both countries in terms of disaster response and humanitarian crises. The overall scenario was revamped to address unconventional challenges such as cybersecurity.

David stressed the importance of this exercise for both countries. “The U.S. and Jordan have a thriving partnership that has spanned six decades, and we recognize Jordan as an invaluable ally in the region. Eager Lion, in its eight iteration, is a major training exercise that provides U.S. and Jordanian forces ― land, air and naval ― the opportunity to improve their collective ability to plan and operate in a coalition-type environment.”

David said this is accomplished through a variety of realistic scenarios that prepare the two military forces to defend their respective nations and citizens. “Eager Lion has become the capstone engagement between the U.S. and Jordanian militaries, allowing us to pursue ways to better address common threats to regional security,” David explained.

A wide variety of scenarios ― from long-range bomber missions to maritime security operations to a ground force attack by a fictitious adversary ― occurred throughout Jordan. Eager Lion ended April 26 with a naval exercise involving the raiding and inspection of a vessel.

“In simulation of a hostage-taking operation, the troops successfully liberated hostages and nabbed the outsider culprits after they cordoned off the vessel with speed raid boats and rescued the detainees with the help of military helicopters. The joint final-day war game also brought the anti-terror crews together to professionally destroy a beach target,” Jordan news agency Petra reported April 25.

As a part of the U.S.-Jordanian strategic partnership, Eager Lion aims to increase the effectiveness of the operational cooperation between the two armed forces.

“Eager Lion’s ultimate goal is to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability between our respective militaries. The U.S. and Jordan work through systems integration, processes development, and command-and-control issues so we can strengthen our relationships and trust … neither of which can be surged in the time of crisis,” David said. “But the common theme is our collective interest to prevail together against our most complex challenges. To this end, Eager Lion 2018 has been a huge success.”

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Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.