By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 03, 2013) -- About 100 Soldiers from the 1st Armored Division are now in Jordan, within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, as part of an advance headquarters element that will pave the way for follow-on Soldiers in the June "Eager Lion" exercise there.
Maj. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, the new commander of Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Armored Division, or 1st AD, will himself go forward in a few weeks to meet up with his deputy, who is already in place, in order to participate in the exercise.
"It's an opportunity for us to develop mil-to-mil relationships with the Jordanian armed forces," MacFarland said. "The 1st Armored Division is regionally aligned with the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, area of responsibility, or AOR, so building on our ability to operate and establish greater bonds of mutual trust with the Jordanians is a huge benefit for our troops who are going over there, and familiarizing ourselves with Jordan."
The exercise will involve about 8,000 personnel. About 5,000 of those will be U.S., and about 3,000 will be Jordanian.
The 1st AD is "regionally aligned" with CENTCOM, something the Army has recently started to push. A regional alignment flags Army units to prepare to go forward and support combatant commanders as they address mutual threats and interests with partners; build capabilities of partners so they can handle things themselves; and increase influence to have access if needed.
Regionally aligned forces can include Army capabilities in direct support of combatant commanders every day. They also include personnel and units assigned to a theater, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command have the bulk of these. Additionally, regionally aligned forces include those units in an "allocated" status, given to a combatant commander for a specific mission for a specific period of time and under his direct control.
Finally, regionally aligned forces include other capabilities that support the combatant commander, but are "Army-service retained." That includes individuals and small teams that provide reach-back support, who serve on regular temporary duty missions to a region, or who conduct contingency planning for combatant commanders.
As part of its regional alignment with CENTCOM, MacFarland said the 1st AD will be involved with work on integrated air missile defense, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.
"These are all elements of our capability tool bag that it is good to dust off and work on," he said.
Jordan shares more than 200 miles of border with Syria, to its north. MacFarland said he doesn't believe what is going on in Syria now will affect the Eager Lion exercise. Nevertheless, he said, the Army has plans if conflicts in Syria boil over at some point and cross into Jordan.
"If conditions remain relatively constant in the area, then I would anticipate that the size of the headquarters will remain what it is," he said. "If events begin to move in one direction or the other, we may have to augment those and implement one or more contingency plans."
The general said he is concerned about the conflict in Syria.
"We are concerned about the expansion and the spillover of the conflict into the neighboring countries," he said. "That's one of the main reasons we are partnering with the Jordanian armed forces, to help them defend their own borders. And so this exercise will enhance their ability to do so."
MacFarland said his upcoming trip to Jordan will be his first to the nation, and he is "looking forward to it."
The entire 1st AD, about 20,000 Soldiers, is aligned with CENTCOM. Other forces are also aligned to the CENTCOM AOR. Those Soldiers who are aligned remain at home until they are called upon to participate in partnership-building exercises or other activities. Not all Soldiers who are aligned will go forward to participate in such exercises, officials said.