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Friday, March 31, 2023

As tensions rise in the Middle East, the US and Israel practice fighting side by side

Israeli-US forces have concluded one of their most tactically demanding joint exercises ever, in which soldiers from allied nations practiced combat side-by-side while both sides faced heightened risk from insurgent groups in the Middle East.

The exercise, known as the Intrepid Maven, took place from February 19 to March 1 and marked the first time Marines from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) had officially trained alongside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since CENTCOM assumed responsibility for combatant command taken over Israel by US European Command in September 2021.

IDF Lt. Col. Gilad Pasternak, commander of the Israel Training Battalion, said both Israeli and US forces have been able to gain a better understanding of each other’s tactics, both defensive and offensive, in an environment in which troops of the two nations stood together directly on the battlefield.

“We were able to advance, attacking shoulder to shoulder with our allies, the Americans,” Pasternak said news week.

He also noted that the IDF “had the opportunity to train the Marines on IDF infrastructure, including live fire instructions for Israeli weapons,” and that both sides “were able to learn operational lessons, including at the tactical level.” .

“I don’t think the IDF has ever reached this level of knowledge transfer between the two sides,” he added.

Pasternak said the tactics used in the exercise, which involved simulated urban combat, had real-world value for both militaries. For Israel, this has meant preparing for an “open war,” as opposed to only sporadic attacks on multiple fronts both to the north, where the Lebanese Hezbollah movement operates, and further south, where Palestinian movements like Hamas and the Islamic jihad are present.

“The next war will involve open war,” said Pasternak, who led a platoon in Israel’s war in Lebanon in 2006 and served as a company commander in the IDF’s protective edge war in Gaza in 2014. “In this way, the IDF is always trying to improve its capabilities, both weapons and doctrine.”

Some of the threats specifically addressed by the exercise included confrontation with hidden explosives along with rocket and mortar fire, as well as efforts to trace the sources of such enemy operations in a fast-paced combat environment. Such attacks have recently been witnessed from the Gaza Strip as violent unrest also increases in Israel itself.

But Pasternak pointed out that “American Marines also have to deal with this type of threat from artillery, mortars and rockets aimed at American bases”. US service members in Iraq and Syria face occasional missile attacks, often attributed to militias allied with Iran, Israel’s nemesis.

Tehran and Washington have long accused each other of destabilizing the Middle East, and Iran and Israel have openly warned of a direct conflict that could also involve the Islamic Republic’s various partner militias in the region.

Pasternak said the opportunity to see how US Marines respond to such threats is “so important” to the IDF. He argued that “we have different types of battlefields, but we have the same threats.”

And while he doubted that US forces would actually have to fight in Israel anytime soon, he said he hoped for even closer military cooperation between Israel and the US in the future.

“Israel has a great ability to defend itself, and Israel has a powerful military, powerful assets, and powerful friends too,” Pasternak said. “So I don’t think we’ll see Americans and Israelis fighting on Israeli soil very soon, or ever. That’s definitely not going to happen, I think, in the short or long term.”

“But I think the connections that we have, we talk about the technology, about doctrine, about method, will always be there,” he added, “and I hope that they will continue to develop over time.” .”

US Marine Corps Capt. Sean Styerwalk, who serves as company commander of 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, also stated that knowledge-sharing opportunities are vital for both sides.

“Our goal over here was to raise the unit’s operational readiness even further by conducting preliminary infantry training up to the fire team level,” Styerwalk said news week. “It worked. It was great that we could work hand in hand with the IDF because the IDF has different tactics, techniques and procedures – TTP for short – than we do.”

“We were able to learn their TTPs from them while also teaching them some of our TTPs to further expand this interoperability experience between our two countries,” he added.

In particular, Styerwalk said that one of the most useful learnings from the exercise was “an increased readiness of the units in close combat.”

A final exercise involved a combined IDF-US “red cell” unit playing the role of enemy combatants. That practice, Styerwalk said, offered a glimpse into “human nature and that uncertainty, that friction, that fog of war that’s inherent in combat.”

“The training we conduct is at a level that prepares us every time we conduct this training as we continue to push our TTPs to confidently face off against any enemy on the battlefield,” Styerwalk said.

And like Pasternak, he looked forward to further integration of the two forces.

“They are an important strategic partner in this region, so all the bilateral opportunities that we can develop on both sides of the house is a great thing for us,” he said. “It’s a good addition.”

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