U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS -- The North Carolina-based 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Norfolk, Va.-based Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group have completed participation in Exercise Eager Lion 12 after spending a month conducting a variety of training events throughout Jordan and within the Red Sea as part of a larger effort to enhance partnerships of 19 participating nations.
The exercise, which has been planned for three years, was meant to promote cooperation and interoperability among participating forces by building functional capacity, practicing crisis management and enhancing readiness throughout the region.
The 24th MEU sent approximately 1,000 Marines ashore with a full complement of ground, air, and logistics units as a Marine Air Ground Task Force and executed numerous live-fire training ranges, planning exercises, and unique crisis response missions with various partnered nations, including members of the Royal Jordanian Armed Forces.
“Any time a MEU engages with partnered forces, it comes away from the exercise a better unit. Our experience during Eager Lion 12 proved no different as we were able to learn about, and from, our partners, each with their unique capabilities and experiences,” said Col. Frank Donovan, commanding officer of the 24th MEU.
Approximately 1,300 remaining members of the MEU, along with nearly 2,000 Sailors from the Iwo Jima ARG supported the shore-based operations from aboard the three ships of the Iwo Jima ARG – USS Iwo Jima, USS New York and USS Gunston Hall.
Also while at sea, the MEU and ARG participated in a number of Visit, Board, Search and Seizure training missions with partnered nations.
“This exercise provided us the opportunity to work by, with, and through our partners to achieve the exercises’ larger objectives. For the MEU, executing from the sea gave us the opportunity to maximize our ship-to-objective maneuver and expeditionary logistics,” said Donovan.
“Eager Lion provided the IWOARG with great opportunity to practice amphibious operations in support of the MEU ashore,” said Capt. Arturo M. Garcia, commodore Amphibious Squadron 8. “Additionally, we were able to embark units from several regional partner nations on our ships and conduct very valuable training. These exchanges are professionally very beneficial because they teach us how to work closely and effectively with our regional partners in the maritime environment.”
After completing the exercise the Marines spent the end of May and beginning of June re-embarking the Iwo Jima ARG to prepare for follow-on training exercises and continue their mission as a theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command as part of a regularly scheduled 8-month deployment.
This was the second major exercise for the 24th MEU-Iwo Jima ARG team since deploying in March. The first exercise was called African Lion 12, the largest exercise in the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.
Theater security cooperation exercises are key missions for deployed MEUs and ARGs allowing these units to integrate with various partners throughout the world.
“We depart Jordan thankful to our Jordanian hosts. We sail away better prepared for any mission ahead based on the great opportunities presented to us during Eager Lion 12,” said Donovan.