By Sgt. 1st Class Jason EppersonMarch 21, 2018
HATZOR AIR FORCE BASE, Israel -- For the fourth time this decade, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and members of the Israel Defense Forces participated in bilateral combined ballistic missile defense exercise Juniper Cobra from mid-February to March 20, 2018.
Army Col. David E. Shank, commander of the 10th AAMDC, stationed at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Kaiserslautern, Germany, said that this exercise demonstrates the long-standing commitment and cooperation between Israel and the United States.
"While the concept of deploying U.S. BMD systems to Israel by air and sea may sound simple, it is not. Interoperability and the technical integration of IADF and U.S. BMD systems is complex, and require the right personnel, training, and expertise," Shank said. "Combined with our IADF partners and collectively known as Task Force BMD, these BMD systems are integrated to provide layered ballistic missile defense defensive fires of critical assets across Israel."
Shank said that this exercise involves input from both the U.S. and the Israeli armed forces.
"This exercise provides Task Force BMD the unique opportunity to test and incorporate new technology and ideas against a simulated regional threat," said Shank. "These simulated threats span all five areas of multi domain battle. [Juniper Cobra] also provides training opportunities at the crew and collective levels, which not only supports Task Force BMD objectives, but our higher headquarters objectives."
This training also reinforces the strong relationship that 10th AAMDC maintains with the IADF, Shank said. "Anytime our Soldiers are able to deploy to locations such as Israel and train in a field environment is beneficial."
Shank stressed that the Israeli hosts have been extremely gracious and that the 18-plus month train-up and execution of Juniper Cobra 18 has clearly strengthened the professional and personal relationships of all service members involved in the exercise.
"We recognize the enormous importance of this exercise, yet took time to experience the Israeli culture and build lasting relationships with our Israeli partners. I am proud of our U.S. and Israeli Service members of Task Force BMD and the way each performed over this extended exercise period. All service members have worked tirelessly to help make this exercise a success," Shank said.
Before the BMD exercise, Delta Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery conducted a week-long field training exercise validating eleven jump sites throughout Israel.
Army Cpt. Dustin Colegate, commander of Delta Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, explained that his battery executed four phases for Juniper Cobra. Colegate said his battery set up sites from the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea to the hills of Jerusalem and to the Negev Desert.
"We jumped from eleven different positions in six days," Colegate said. "That's the first time that had ever been done. That's not a lot of time for one unit. It really pushed Delta Battery to better our training. We are more combat capable now and we are certified that in case of war, those Patriot batteries can be delivered to those sites and that's reassurance to both us and the Israelis."
Colegate said that some of the sites out of the eleven had never been certified before, so his battery broke new ground in establishing new positions. "It was a great opportunity for Delta Battery and 5-7 ADA just to be a part of that over arching confirmation that if the balloon went up, we could deliver combat power here in theater," he said.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Colby, force protection noncommissioned officer, Delta Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery, said this was her first time in Israel and it's been the best exercise she's been too in her two years with 7th Air Defense Artillery.
"Usually when we do training, we go to a lot of places that we already know how to set it up, because we've been there before. So here, it was real word how we would emplace the site," Colby said.
Colby said that during Juniper Cobra 18, the Soldiers were given situations from higher echelons to see how quickly the battery could react, through simulations as if actually being deployed here.
"It's been interest to work so closely with the host nation and with their force protection; that was a different experience for me. It was interesting to see how heavily we rely on each other to get the mission done," she said.
Pfc. Anthony Borges, a forward observer assigned to the 10th AAMDC, was excited to be on his second major exercise with the 10th AAMDC.
"I enjoy working with my Israeli counterparts. I just got done talking with a guy about the Israeli service requirements, and how he's happy to be working with our country. It's quite interesting talking with them everyday and learning what they know and teaching them what we know," Borges said.
Borges, a native of Panama City Beach, Florida, shares some advice for the next group of Soldiers who are participating in the next Juniper Cobra series.
"Really pay attention and be serious on everything we learn, practice and train here, because one day we might have a real life situation where we might have to come here and really help them out," he said. "Working together is very important for the defense of Israel."
Borges said he likes being in Israel and getting to experience their culture.
"It's been interesting visiting with them, seeing the different cities, trying different foods, learning how they live their day-to-day lives and seeing how good we work together with them," he said. "I can't really say enough about how important this exercise is for the United States and for Israel to be able to work and train together. We have to be prepared to execute, so we'll be ready to fight if needed."
Juniper Cobra concluded on March 20 with a closing ceremony and a Patriot live fire exercise.