US Army seeks to increase joint training with IDF

Despite fears of budget cuts, the US Army and Israel will hold one of the largest joint exercises in the two nations’ history in 2012.

Lt.-Gen. Mark Hertling311 (photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy)
Lt.-Gen. Mark Hertling311
(photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy)
Despite budget constraints and reports of tension between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the United States Army is looking to increase cooperation with the IDF, and will hold one of the largest joint exercises in the two nations’ history in 2012, a senior American general said on Wednesday.
Lt.-Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of the US Army in Europe, told The Jerusalem Post that the two armies will hold a massive ground forces exercise in Spring 2012 called “Austere Challenge,” which will seek to increase inter-operability between the IDF and the US Army.
The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces for the event of a future large-scale conflict in the Middle East.
“We are looking to increase relations and to expand training,” he told the Post following a meeting with OC Ground Forces Command Maj.-Gen.
Sami Turgeman at the Latrun Armored Corps Museum.
Shortly before Austere Challenge, scheduled for May, the EUCOM will also hold the Juniper Cobra missile defense exercise with the IDF, and include the Arrow 2 and Iron Dome as well as America’s THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and the shipbased Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. The exercise is expected to include the actual launching of interceptors from these systems.
Hertling and Turgeman also discussed the possibility of sending IDF officers to US Army training schools in Germany, where the officer would serve on the faculty of the school and share his experiences with new recruits training ahead of deployment.
US Army units frequently spend time in Germany before deploying in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Hertling expressed specific interest in sending American soldiers to Israel to study at the IDF sniper school at the Adam Military Base near Modi’in which he visited on Wednesday.
Hertling said that while he anticipated cuts to the US Army’s budget, he did not believe it would have an effect on joint-training programs with the IDF.
“We will have to look at some things, but in the short term we are in good shape,” he said, adding that the Army’s relationship with the IDF would remain strong and efficient.
Hertling said that he discussed with Turgeman some of the lessons the IDF learned from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 against Hezbollah, and how the intifada affected the military ahead of the war. He said that the US was facing a similar challenge after nearly 10 years of conducting counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Israel came out of the intifada like we are coming out of the counter-insurgency environment,” he said. “We see the same thing, which is the need to continue to train.”