UDAIRI RANGE, Kuwait-Camouflaged into the desert are large military vehicles, tan-painted sport utility vehicles and sand-colored tents. These act as temporary homes for communication equipment and operators belonging to not one, not two, but three partner armies.
Kuwait, Qatar and the United States have each set up tactical command posts for Desert Leopard II, a five-day trilateral exercise designed to test and develop interoperability between the three nations March 2-6, 2019.
"The main idea for the exercise is to conduct a mutual understanding of three different doctrines with allied forces," explained Kuwait Land Force Lt. Col. Munawer Al-Otaibi. "Also, something new for the [Kuwaiti Land Forces] is using the air defense as a whole in a land force exercise. ...The overall achievement for this kind of exercise is to have a better understanding, a fast response from all three forces."
The three forces involved are the Kuwait Land Force, the Qatar Emiri Land Force, and U.S. Army personnel assigned to U.S. Army Central Command's Task Force Spartan, an organization led by the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division, comprised of Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel working to strengthen defense relationships in the region. On day one of the exercise, it was clear that synchronizing communication systems would be vital to coordinating operations among multiple command posts.
"You're talking about three different nations. Not every country has the same communications system when it comes to dealing with a tank battalion or an armor battalion or infantry or even air defense," said Al-Otaibi.
While staff members were busy in the Joint Operations Center (JOC) tracking the mock battle of the exercise, military and Kuwaiti civilian medical personnel were out in the sun rehearsing and sharing their emergency medicine and trauma skill sets. Air assets from both the U.S. and Kuwait flew to the simulated battalion aid station so that the medics could learn about their counterpart's aircraft and loading procedures in case of a medical evacuation situation. The U.S. provided a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew from the Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 211th General Support Aviation Battalion, 35th Combat Aviation Brigade on day three of the exercise, while Kuwait provided an AS332 Super Puma on day four.
"Taking a look at how we can integrate maybe the medical aspects of it or additional training, I think that can definitely happen, but I think we need to step forward more on the communication side," said U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Sanganoo, deputy operations officer for the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division and Task Force Spartan. "Because truly, on the battlefield it's too late to determine whether you can communicate with your allies."
With the different nations using varied forms of equipment that did not always seamlessly synchronize, the players involved had to get creative to ensure that they could conduct their exercise. Both Kuwait and Qatar provided liaison officers to the U.S. Tactical Operating Center who helped to translate radio transmissions and keep the flow of information intact.
"Overall I would say it was a good time to spend with the Qataris [and] with the U.S. Forces especially when it comes to dealing with a task," said Al-Otaibi. "When you have a battalion from the U.S. [Armored Brigade Combat Team] dealing with a Qatari brigade and having to engage and solve a problem, that would be the most fun part to me, personally."
"With the foundation for a functional trilateral command-post exercise between the three nations laid," said Sanganoo, "building capacity and planning for Desert Leopard III can begin."