KUWAIT (March 15, 2016) -- Soldiers with 40th Combat Aviation Brigade and 97th Transportation Company joined the Kuwaiti air force and navy for a search and rescue exercise in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Kuwait, March 9, 2016.

While on U.S. Army utility boat, Soldiers with the 40th CAB boarded a life raft and were set adrift in the Persian Gulf to simulate survivors of a downed aircraft. The Soldiers then made a distress call to the Joint Personnel Recovery Center who contacted the Kuwaiti military for assistance in saving them.

"If the U.S. military were to have a downed aircraft in the waters off of Kuwait, the first group the JPRC would contact is the host nation to request assistance with the recovery of those personnel," said Maj. Edward Ziembinski, the U.S. Army Central Center for Army Lessons Learned liaison. "We wanted to test their capabilities and see how we can reduce any friction points to ensure a successful recovery if a real-world situation were to happen."

During the exercise, the 32nd Squadron of the Kuwait air force sent out a helicopter to locate the isolated personnel. They relayed the position of the isolated personnel to the Kuwait navy, who sent a vessel to extract them from the water and return them to safety.

"Working together with our partners in the Kuwaiti military we'll be able to reduce any issues that might come up and make joint operations much smoother," said Sgt. Anthony Orduno, a Black Hawk crew chief with Company B, 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 40th CAB.

The exercise allowed the Kuwaiti military forces to practice their techniques in a realistic personnel recovery mission.

"It is nice to work with the international community and perfect our skills," said Capt. Naser Alb'aroob, a captain in the Kuwait navy. "Participating in exercises like this will help us react faster when lives are on the line."

"This exercise's mission objectives were to have the Kuwaiti military rescue our personnel from a life raft," said Orduno. "I believe that it was a huge success and I look forward to working with our partners again."

The 40th CAB units fly over the Persian Gulf on missions in and around USARCENT's area of responsibility that range from training exercises to personnel movement and logistics operations.

"Since we do a lot of over-water training, we want to make sure that our partners are proficient with search and rescue operations," said Orduno. "As they become comfortable with these tasks, the reaction time will be reduced and lives will be saved."

"We are here to build trust between our militaries," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Spiekhout, the first mate of the Fort Donelson, a U.S. Army vessel, with 97th Transportation Company. "Broadening our capabilities, and that of our partners, we will be able to react much quicker and working together will allow for better integration of all assets available. If a helicopter goes down off the coast of Kuwait, the crew should be rescued by someone here rather than needing to wait for a team from another country to swing by. This will increase the likelihood of a successful recovery mission."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paul Valdez, a vessel master with 97th Transportation Company, said USARCENT links its assets with partner militaries to enhance the capabilities and interoperability in the region.

Valdez added, "This is important because as we minimize the delays between communication and action in a training environment, we will have a better outcome in a real world emergency."