Strike, Access, Recovery: USAF Special Tactics becomes a team with partner SOF

U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen and Italy's 17th Stormo Incursori troops prepare to board an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules after it landed in a dry lake bed during Exercise Eager Lion, May 16, 2017, in Jordan. The joint special operations team assessed, opened, and controlled clandestine desert landing strip, which helped them train to provide strategic access for U.S. or allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen and Italy's 17th Stormo Incursori troops prepare to board an Ohio Air National Guard C-130H Hercules after it landed in a dry lake bed during Exercise Eager Lion, May 16, 2017, in Jordan. The joint special operations team assessed, opened, and controlled clandestine desert landing strip, which helped them train to provide strategic access for U.S. or allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

U.S. Air National Guard Airmen with the 127th Airlift Wing inspect a C-130H Hercules following a dry lake bed landing during Exercise Eager Lion, May 17, 2017, in Jordan. Eager Lion 2017, an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. This year's iteration is comprised of about 7,200 military personnel from more than 20 nations that will respond to scenarios involving border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

U.S. Air National Guard Airmen with the 127th Airlift Wing inspect a C-130H Hercules following a dry lake bed landing during Exercise Eager Lion, May 17, 2017, in Jordan. Eager Lion 2017, an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. This year's iteration is comprised of about 7,200 military personnel from more than 20 nations that will respond to scenarios involving border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A U.S. Air Force Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Operations Wing maintains visuals on an Ohio Air National Guard 127th Airlift Wing C-130H Hercules during an airfield reconn mission during Exercise Eager Lion May 16, 2017, in Jordan. Special Tactics teams can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations, providing strategic access for U.S. or allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

A U.S. Air Force Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Operations Wing maintains visuals on an Ohio Air National Guard 127th Airlift Wing C-130H Hercules during an airfield reconn mission during Exercise Eager Lion May 16, 2017, in Jordan. Special Tactics teams can assess, open, and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in either permissive or hostile locations, providing strategic access for U.S. or allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Members of the Jordanian Armed Forces Special Task Force prepare for extraction during a combat search and rescue mission at Eager Lion May 11, 2017, at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Members of the Jordanian Armed Forces Special Task Force prepare for extraction during a combat search and rescue mission at Eager Lion May 11, 2017, at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Italian special operations forces, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and members of the Jordanian Armed Forces Special Task Force fast rope from a Royal Jordanian Air Force UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter onto a three-story building during Exercise Eager Lion May 11, 2017, at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Ryan Conroy)

Italian special operations forces, U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and members of the Jordanian Armed Forces Special Task Force fast rope from a Royal Jordanian Air Force UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter onto a three-story building during Exercise Eager Lion May 11, 2017, at King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Ryan Conroy)

Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 24th Special Operations Wing and Italian special operations forces carry a simulated casualty through the Al Biadia Cave Complex during a personnel rescue mission for Eager Lion, May 13, 2017, in Mafraq Province, Jordan. Eager Lion 2017, an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. This year's iteration is comprised of about 7,200 military personnel from more than 20 nations that will respond to scenarios involving border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 24th Special Operations Wing and Italian special operations forces carry a simulated casualty through the Al Biadia Cave Complex during a personnel rescue mission for Eager Lion, May 13, 2017, in Mafraq Province, Jordan. Eager Lion 2017, an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners. This year's iteration is comprised of about 7,200 military personnel from more than 20 nations that will respond to scenarios involving border security, command and control, cyber defense and battlespace management. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

KING ABDULLAH SPECIAL OPERATIONS TASK CENTER, Jordan -- One by one, parachutes pop open, silhouetted in the Jordanian sunset as joint nation special operations forces float toward the desert terrain below—completing a military free fall from 18,000 feet out of a U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules.

Despite language barriers and differences in tactics, techniques and procedures, joint SOF teams from U.S., Jordan and Italy persevered and completed successful training missions, from recovering a missing service member behind enemy lines to landing an aircraft in a desert lake bed– all in the name of interoperability and global security during Eager Lion 2017.

"Each piece of puzzle serves a specific purpose within each mission and this served as an opportunity for us to share best practices and build on prior experience," said Lt. Col. Rodger Jennrich, commander of the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron and Special Operations Task Force CEDAR during EL17. "These efforts make us stronger as a ground scheme of maneuver operating as a special operations task force."

U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 23rd STS, Jordan's 101st Special Operations Battalion and Italy's 17th Stormo Incursori special operations forces have been training together to do comprehensive mission sets since the exercise's start on March 7.

During the exercise, SOTF CEDAR's joint special operations teams were organized by troops of Special Tactics' core mission sets: personnel recovery, precision strike and global access. Throughout the exercise, each troop specifically trained with their partner forces on those capabilities, from ground assault in urban terrain to controlling aircraft landings in the desert.

"This has been a great experience," said Jordanian Capt. Ali A. Al'Ajarmah, company commander of the Jordanian 101st SOB. "We learn from each other; each piece works together until the job is complete, and we become a team."

Eager Lion 2017 is an annual U.S. Central Command exercise in Jordan designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships between the U.S., Jordan and other international partners.

"Eager Lion is a reoccurring opportunity for Special Tactics to exercise and train toward building joint leaders and develop relationships with foreign partner special operation force elements," said Jennrich. "During this exercise, we have increased our interoperability and combined like-minded forces to enhance our capabilities."

Throughout the exercise, the Global Access Team within SOTF CEDAR trained to provide strategic access for U.S. and allied nations—access that allows those forces to assault, maneuver and project power from critical locations.

For example, in their final event, the Global Access Team surveyed, established and ran a dry lake bed as an ‘airfield,’ controlling a C-130H Hercules landing-- then boarded the aircraft to freefall into their objective. In real-world operations, this military freefall infiltration technique might be the start of a personnel recovery or reconnaissance mission.

"During the exercise, we were able to integrate the teams into a working relationship," said a Special Tactics operator who leads the global access team. "The end state was partner-nation building, and we got to that point -- we were able to function as a team comfortably. We had successes with the team and some failures as a team, but each failure stands as a learning point and we build upon that."

The Personnel Recovery Team trained for mass casualty, confined space, and high angle-rescue missions. Special Tactics teams train to lead and conduct personnel recovery missions, from rapid mission planning to technical rescue, treatment and exfiltration.

With in-depth medical and rescue expertise, along with their deployment capabilities, PR teams are able to perform rescue missions in the world's most remote areas.

"Completely integrating each nation into the teams allowed us to exchange best practices in our standard operating procedures," said a Special Tactics officer on the PR team. "We pressed each other pretty hard; if we do work together later on, this built the foundation to run operations smoothly and know each other well enough to understand our limitations."

Lastly, the Precision Strike Team trained for close quarters battles within a realistic urban compound. Besides sharpening their ground movement skills, they also controlled air strikes from Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and U.S. Army AH-6 Littlebirds, requiring both air and ground parties to precisely identify and eliminate targets.

Special Tactics Airmen are highly-trained in integrating air and ground domains—specifically, kinetic and non-kinetic precision strike, or coordinating from the ground with aircraft to drop accurate munitions as well as deliver humanitarian aid bundles.

"We were very impressed with the Jordanian Air Force during the call-for-fires -- they did everything by the book and on par with what's expected on a battlefield," said a Special Tactics officer on the Precision Strike Team. "On the ground, we were able to enhance each other tactics, techniques and procedures and synchronize our efforts and training bilaterally -- which was a definite success."

As Eager Lion 2017 comes to a close, joint nation partners return home with a renewed sense of understanding and a shared experience of each other's mission.

"I wish to have another chance to train with everyone again and only get better," Al'Ajarmah said. "We were three different units, and we have now become one team."