Santa Fe Trail continues throughout the Levant

By Staff Sgt. Jeremy Miller

35th Infantry Division Public Affairs

AMMAN, Jordan– A lot can happen over the course of several months. For the Soldiers of the 35th Infantry Division currently serving in the Levant

A U.S. Soldier operates an excavator while Jordanian Royal Engineers guide the operator to fill HESCO barriers. The Soldiers are collaborating as part of the partnership between Jordan and the U.S. to ensure the safety and security of the Hashemite Kingdom. (Courtesy photo)

region of the Middle East their overseas rotation has allowed them opportunities to build on the ever-expanding relationship between the U.S. and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

These opportunities have lent themselves to shaping future endeavors by strengthening combined combat-readiness, developing deeper partnerships, maintaining mission readiness and ultimately fostering an environment of mutual respect and cultural understanding.

 

Building combat readiness through bi-lateral training

During their mission, Santa Fe Soldiers have worked closely with their Jordan Armed Forces counterparts to enhance cooperative military training and strengthen the combined combat readiness. One of the main cooperation initiatives the U.S. and Jordan conducts is the Jordanian Operational Engagement Program. The JOEP is a 10-week program where Jordan and U.S. Soldiers train on a variety of weapons system, including the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier and Mechanized Mortar Vehicle, Javelin, M-4 rifle and the M110 semi-automatic rifle.

Sgt. Ramon Crayton, 35th Inf. Div., performs final checks on a mobile communications system before it becomes operational in the Levant, Nov. 3, 2017. Crayton is part of the communications cell and responsible for helping provide Soldiers the means of digital systems throughout the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Miller)

Capt. Tom Williams, 35th Infantry Division plans officer for the JOEP, says the collaborative efforts has promoted military knowledge and a more in-depth cultural understanding.

“The Jordanian Operational Engagement Program allows Jordan and U.S. Soldiers to develop personally and professionally while on the firing ranges, having a meal together or just sharing military life experiences.”

The JOEP is the largest training program out of the U.S. Embassy in Amman, funded by the Counter Terrorism Partnership Fund. Through this program, the U.S. has committed to advising and assisting Jordan as it remains vigilant and ready to defend its people against potential threats of violent extremism.

With every completion of a JOEP cycle, Jordan and U.S. Soldiers have a better understanding of how each country builds and maintains combat readiness.

Building better partnerships through information exchanges

In addition to the JOEP program, Soldiers of the 35th ID and the JAF interact during a variety of other exchanges.

One such reoccurring exchange is a series of legal studies engagements. These events allow JAF and U.S. Forces to share information regarding rules of engagement, international law and how the U.S. Army military justice system applies to Soldiers serving in austere environments.

“We’ve held five legal symposiums with Jordanian military judges to exchange ideas on the practical application of operational law concepts when advising commanders,” said Maj. Spencer Curtis, 35th Infantry Division Judge Advocate General officer. “These collaborative efforts allow Jordan and the U.S. to make intelligent and informed decisions as to how we should be operating in a joint environment.”

Curtis says the Jordanian soldiers are eager to gain understanding of how the U.S. codifies its laws and regulations from a military standpoint. They are also interested in comparing fundamental rights in both systems, like the right to an attorney, while contrasting the differences between the two systems, like the U.S. trial by jury system.

Contributing to the partnership exchanges, the 35th Infantry Division military intelligence section planned and participated in extensive subject matter expert exchanges with the JAF intelligence directorate. Topics discussed included intelligence preparation of the battlefield, the military decision making process and geospatial engineering.

Maj. Charity Summers, 35th Infantry Division intelligence officer, said it has been rewarding to collaborate with her Jordanian counterparts.

“We’ve conducted more than 50 intelligence engagements with the Jordanian Directorate of Military Intelligence and supporting organizations,” said Summers. “Additionally, we’ve contributed to the planning and execution of a staffwide, trilateral, multinational tabletop exercise to include the first-ever joint assessment with Jordan.”

Building and maintaining mission readiness through collaborative projects

Through continued planning efforts, the 35th ID engineers built partnerships and literally changed the landscape in the Levant by managing the buildout of new construction projects. These engineering projects helped create infrastructure to support the coalition partnership between the Jordan and U.S. armed forces.

Maj. Todd Leeds, 35th Infantry Division engineer officer, said the working collaboration between the Royal Jordanian Engineer Corps and U.S. engineers is essential to help defend Jordan’s borders and protect against threats.

“Two REC battalions and U.S. engineers emplaced a barrier protection system around 17 separate border towers, which totaled 3,200 meters,” said Leeds. “This separates the most dangerous portions of the border against external threats to Jordan.”

Yet another measure for maintaining mission readiness for the 35th came from the communication and information technology support sections. Capt. Edward Maidment, 35th Infantry Division deputy communications officer, said keeping software safe from viruses and other malicious programs is the key to operating consistently in the digital age.

“We’re currently updating over 230 computers to combat software issues and maintain Soldiers’ ability to push vital information,” says Maidment. “Our team also managed six digital communications networks, commercial internet connection for over 300 users and implemented a tactical communications solution to provide data and voice over internet provider phone services for use in emergencies.”

Building lasting relationships through cultural understanding

Although 35th Soldiers worked hard, time did become available for Soldiers to appreciate the ancient historical sites throughout Jordan.

Maj. John Potter, 35th Infantry Division chaplain, says visiting these treasured places provides knowledge and perspective regarding how the world has taken its shape throughout history.

“Jordan has preserved valuable ruins which depict part of human history,” says Potter. “Seeing the preservation of the Roman amphitheatre in Amman, mosques, Byzantine churches and the ancient architecture of Petra is a testament to how revered these monuments are to Jordan and the entire world.”

The 35th has been provided many opportunities across the Hashemite Kingdom to engage and interact with both the military and the people of Jordan. But the partnerships and relationships built over the past few months could not have been built without the mutual respect and generosity shown by their Jordanian counterparts.

Command Sgt. Maj. Terence Hankerson, 35th ID, says his experience in Jordan has been a tremendous opportunity to work with international military peers, building partnerships, mutual trust and respect.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the welcoming citizens of Jordan,” said Hankerson. “The Jordanian and U.S. Soldiers are training hard to help secure a bright future for the people of the Hashemite Kingdom.”

Brig. Gen. John Rueger, 35th Infantry Division deputy commanding general, says that collectively, the citizens and civil and military leaders of Jordan have been gracious hosts.

“It has been our honor and privilege to work with the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army,” said Rueger. “Everywhere the 35th has been we’ve been treated warmly and welcomed by the citizens of Jordan.”