“One can go to war alone, but you can’t build peace alone.” — Jacques Chirac, 22nd President of France, 1995-2007.
As the Joint Readiness Training Center began rotation 17-07 June 9, the group serving as the host nation force battalion headquarters was a contingent from the Tunisian army — first-timers for JRTC, but not new to fighting terrorism.
Capt. Matthew Graham, commander, B Troop, 132nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, is the U.S. Army Africa Command Regionally Aligned Forces advise and assist trainer embedded with the Tunisian contingent to be a bit more than an observer-coach-trainer. He helped the Tunisians get situated in their role for the exercise and offered more detailed explanations of the training as needed. However, because of their real-world experience in battling terrorism in their country, learning became a two-way street.
“Tunisia is part of the 32-member coalition (the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism) battling ISIL, so a lot of these guys have actually fought with them on the battlefield in Tunisia,” said Graham. “They have a wealth of combat experience that we can learn from too.” He said knowing the experience of the Tunisians meant training could be better tailored to suit their needs, giving them an experience that will enhance their own training back home. “That will help them improve their army,” he said.
Col. Karim Berrabah of the Tunisian Army said he participated in other joint exercises at training centers within AFRICOM, but this was his first in the United States. He and his team learned about the Military Decision Making Process, a concept that will replace Tunisia’s current planning methodology.
“The goal for our participation in this exercise is to increase our partnership with the American Army and learn more about the technology (and methods) used in the tactical operations centers,” said Berrabah. “We will start using the things we learned here — like the MDMP — that we did not use in Tunisia because we were using the French model, and try to introduce it into our training. For this group and others that have visited the U.S., the goal is to build more partnership with the U.S. and learn (other ways) to fight terrorism in our country. Our main goal is to combat the worldwide phenomenon that is terrorism and achieve peace.”
Berrabah said his time working with the American Army at JRTC more than lived up to his expectation.
“It is well known that everyone thinks of the U.S. as the No. 1 world power,” he said. “Coming here, you can affirm that, and the discipline and professionalism of the Soldiers is evident.’’
Lt. Col. Ethan Diven, squadron commander, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is one of the professional Soldiers to which Berrabah referred. He said working with the Tunisian Army was a good experience.
“They have done very well in developing a conceptual plan, and the way they draw graphics and communicate, and their tactics, are similar to ours,” Diven said.
“We go in simple with analog products, not utilizing technology — which in austere environments and bad weather doesn’t work anyway — so it has taken us back to our basic planning tools and has turned into a common way to understand and plan together.”
The experience of working with the Tunisians broadened his staff’s perspective of American and allied interoperability, according to Diven.
“Initial link up (with the Tunisians) and understanding the concept of operations forced our staff to get over some of the assumptions that they made — that it’s going to be fully synchronized and detailed right off the bat — (but) the acronyms that we use are a whole different language than what another country’s army uses.”
Diven said the rotation has been beneficial — for all parties. “It’s been a great exercise.”