JORDAN -- Beneath the desert sun in Jordan, a notional enemy of armored vehicles prepares to make a stand against U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Jordanian armed forces and Italian Marines, who wait just beyond the horizon of the battlefield.
On a hilltop that overlooks the battlefield, a group of American, Jordanian and Italian joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) and joint fire observers watch the enemy, gathering data to pass on to friendly aircraft and artillery that will drop 30,000 pounds of explosives on the enemy before the waiting ground units make their assault.
This was the scene during the culminating event for Exercise Eager Lion 2015 in Jordan, May 18, 2015. JTACs with Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU, joined forces with Jordanians and Italians during the two-week exercise to gain familiarity with each other’s tactics and procedures.
Infantry units are better able to fight an enemy when the enemy’s advantages have been mitigated. It’s up to the unit’s Fire Support Teams (FiST) to do just that. The FiST is the initial part of the process to soften the battlefield by directing fire from artillery, mortars, naval guns and aircraft.
“Our mission is similar to the mission of pre-landing bombardments by naval gunfire in World War II,” said 1st Lt. Bryan C. McDonald, a Roanoke, Virginia, native and the Fire Support Officer for Co. K. “Before the [infantry] company makes an attack, we shape the battlefield, destroying and neutralizing targets so the ground unit can move.”
For the final event of Eager Lion, fire support came from two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers and AH-64 Apaches, teamed up with two sections of Royal Jordanian F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-1 Cobras.
Cpl. Paul J. Griswold, a Vienna, Virginia, native, and the company joint fires observer, assisted the JTAC by performing terminal guidance operations. These operations included marking targets using a variety of markers, to include ground-based lasers, infrared lasers or smoke rounds so the aircraft can easily identify them.
Before conducting the final counterattack, the multi-national fire support teams conducted drills and simulated “call-for-fire” scenarios to work on cohesion and communication. Once proficient, they conducted live-fire exercises, first using mortar systems and then air assets.
The Jordanians and Italian observers were efficient and it was important to build these relationships since it’s possible that these nations could someday work with each other in a real-world scenario, according to McDonald.
“This exercise has made me comfortable with the teams I worked with,” said Sgt. David M. Parslow, an Anaheim, California, native, and a JTAC with the company. “If I ever run into another Jordanian or Italian fire support team and we have to use their aircraft, I know that we can work together to accomplish the mission.”
Eager Lion is a recurring multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability between partner nations and enhance regional security and stability. The 24th MEU is embarked on the ships of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group and deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.