By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 23, 2007 - To prepare the 18th Airborne Corps for its upcoming lead role at Multinational Corps Iraq, some 600 servicemembers are engaging in an exercise Aug. 13-24 to replicate the "rigor, complexity and realism" of Iraq's combat environment, a corps spokesman said today. During a briefing at the Pentagon, Army Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, director of joint training and commander of the Joint Warfighting Center in Suffolk, Va., and Army Brig. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commander for operations for 18th Airborne Corps, discussed the training exercise, dubbed "Unified Endeavor." It aims to ease the transition of control at Multinational Corps Iraq headquarters in Baghdad from U.S. Army 3rd Corps to 18th Airborne Corps, which will occur in spring 2008.
Speaking to reporters via videoconference from Fort Bragg, N.C., Kamiya said elements of the Joint Warfighting Center arrived at Fort Bragg earlier this month to help train the 18th Airborne Corps for its upcoming mission, the unit's first emphasis on educating troops about Iraq's operational environment.
"We brought in a variety of subject-matter experts from Iraq and around the armed services to speak about topics such as contracting, functional topics, staff topics like information operations, intelligence, logistics," Kamiya said.
Unified Endeavor is a "mission rehearsal exercise," providing realistic training scenarios for participants who are observed by U.S. Joint Forces Command trainers. New to this exercise's iteration is the addition of roughly 12 Iraqi role players who represent members of the country's armed forces and government, according to a U.S. Joint Forces Command news release.
Kamiya said he and his staff spent about a year planning the exercise, paying multiple visits to Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, and experts in Iraq to discuss how to craft the most realistic and effective exercise scenarios and experiences for the corps' participants.
Some 56 experts from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq traveled from Iraq to visit Kamiya's staff in the U.S. and help design the exercise. Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Ali, commander of the Iraqi Ground Forces Command, arrived with members of his staff, as did officials from Korea, the United Kingdom, Poland and Australia, Kamiya said.
"I'm also very happy and pleased to announce that ... we have a variety of U.S. interagency partners here with us during the last three weeks: representatives from the State Department, from the FBI, from the U.S. Agency for International Development and a variety of other partners, to include the U.S. embassy in Iraq," he added.
From remote locations around the United States, some of the 18th Airborne Corps' subordinate elements participated in the exercise, including units from Camp Pendleton, Calif; Fort Drum, N.Y.; Fort Bragg; Suffolk, Va.; Fort Hood, Texas; and Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Ferriter said the exercise has educated troops on the United States' ongoing and expected missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Our particular focus for this exercise is really to gain that initial understanding and build expertise in the ongoing activities and the expected activities that the U.S. forces are participating in," he said. "(These include) securing the Iraqi population, assisting the Iraqi security forces and building their capacity, and really setting the space and headroom ... for interagency and nongovernmental organizations and private-sector support to the Iraqi people.
"We've built our team; we've worked out processes and interacted with our partners and set the conditions for the conditions for the corps to assume the role as the Multinational Corps Iraq," Ferriter said. "I'm confident we're ready to take the task ahead."