The meeting was supposed to get no publicity. The presence of the senior foreign officers was to be released only on a "need to know" basis.

Unfortunately for security officers, it was impossible to hide a group of Middle Eastern officers, dressed in their country's uniforms, from the people of Fort Sill and Lawton, Okla.

Once they went to the local rodeo, even though they wore cowboy hats, the cat was out of the bag. Local media began asking questions. Turns out the 14 officers were on post to attend the 2008 International Artillery Symposium.

Fourteen officers from six Middle Eastern countries attended the symposium Aug. 4 through 7. Representatives from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates attended the event.

The symposium was originally exclusively for members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to Pete Clymer, theater security cooperation coordinator, Civil and International Military Affairs Office with Army Central at Fort McPherson, Ga., who helped to coordinate the symposium. Kuwait and Qatar are part of the council, but were not represented.

"Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan are not part of the GCC, but they are friends in the region who we might be interested in doing coalition operations with in the future, so therefore we include them in these types of events," said Clymer. "These are not our allies; allies have signed an alliance, which is an official agreement between countries, and we don't have alliances with them, but they are our friends in the region."

Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, commanding general of U.S. Army Central, Coalition Forces and Land Component Command, said this symposium provides key Army leaders an opportunity to exchange ideas and build military-to-military relationships that foster security cooperation in Central and South Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

"The purpose of this symposium is for senior land forces commanders to meet and have a dialogue on operational fires tactics, techniques and procedures that will enhance our ability to conduct operations together," said Lovelace. "The event satisfied our vital and mutual goals of helping improve regional capabilities in the area of field artillery and will facilitate long-term cooperation and stability in the region."

Lovelace said the symposium is one example of the U.S. Army's desire to maintain a strong relationship with these countries and to enhance the collective capabilities to support one another in future coalition operations.

According to Clymer this is the third symposium. The first symposium was held in 2005 in the United Arab Emirates and the second was in Bahrain.

Clymer said the intent is to get a different country to host the symposium each year, but due to circumstances, there was a two year gap between the first and the second. "It has been one year since the last symposium, and we just figured it would be a good idea to bring them to Fort Sill to let them see some of the things that we are uniquely able to do at Fort Sill that you just can't do anyplace else.

"The bottom line is that this is one of many events that Army Central conducts as part of its theater of security cooperation program or plan that we execute throughout the ARCENT area of responsibility. This is one of the major or multilateral events that we do with the countries of the region. Multilateral meaning several countries are invited as opposed to interacting with just one country," said Clymer.

"We have very high level people come to these events, and there's a lot of high-level exchange, not only between us and the countries that come, but also between those countries," he said. "... Where else in the world are you going to be able to see a high mobility artillery rocket system demonstrated or the new M777A2 (Triple 7) howitzer' This is the cutting-edge stuff that nobody else has but that everybody is going to want, and they had a chance to see it fired and demonstrated here on the range. Those are some of the unique things that Fort Sill offers along with the leading edge of doctrine that's being developed for the future of field artillery. All these things combined helped to make this symposium uniquely successful here at Fort Sill."

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Khalil Faloh Bani Younes, commander of the Jordan school of artillery, said the subject matter closely related to his job as an artillery officer and it was an enriching experience to attend because all these artillery officers are ready for the adaptation for the new era and the new concept of warfare.

"The live fire exercise was the best thing planned for the group as far as I was concerned," said Bani Younes. "I especially enjoyed watching the HIMARS demonstration because it is so accurate and impressive, and there is no greater opportunity to see just what the new field artillery weaponry can accomplish."
Bani Younes said he liked all the activities planned for the group, which included a tour of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, eating at the Old Plantation, parties at the Patriot Club, a tour of the old post barracks, a demonstration of training at Camp Eagle and attending the opening night of a local rodeo.

"I really liked the opportunity to ride on the caisson with the half section. That was great fun to ride with the Soldiers from the half section," Bani Younes said.
Bani Younes said he formed many relationships with other officers who attended the symposium and plans to keep in touch with many of them.

"I appreciate the American invitation to these officers to come to Fort Sill. The specialized intellectual activity that went on during the symposium is sure to be beneficial in the future," Bani Younes said.