NEWS | July 30, 2018

U.S., Emirati Army soldiers join forces for Iron Union 7

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler Task Force Spartan

Soldiers with Task Force Spartan and the United Arab Emirates Land Force Component joined together to improve coordination and communication during exercise Iron Union 7 on July 9, 2018.

“Iron Union is a bi-lateral exercise with the Emirati Land Force Component to improve knowledge and our information sharing between the two units,” said Maj. Jason Grentus, a fires (artillery) planner for the G-5 (plans) section, 28th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan. “Iron Union is about understanding each other’s processes and really how to focus on overcoming some of the challenges, whether it be equipment, information-sharing, or personnel strength.”

Iron Union 7 was a brigade-level command post exercise where both Task Force Spartan and Emirati units would send and receive information up to the brigade-level.

“So, my role within this exercise was managing our HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System] fires,” said 1st Lt. Matt Powers, fire support officer with the 28 ID fires cell. “I was also working to clear and establish any fire support coordination measures. We had to conduct some base-level targeting and then, due to limited resources, I served to coordinate both fixed-wing and rotary-wing air assets. Basically, any type of lethal fires or lethal effects, I coordinated.”

One of the challenges with a bi-lateral exercise is communication, said Powers, something that can be taken for granted.

“I think one of the big takeaways for myself and a lot of our counterparts is the difficulties of working through an interpreter and how that effects our responsiveness. It’s not something that we typically practice state side. So, it was kind of a challenge that we faced and we typically wouldn’t see,” said Powers.

For Grentus, getting a chance to work with the Emirati Land Forces was a different experience from his previous deployment. On his last deployment, to Iraq in 2005, he was helping to train the Iraqi police and army forces, and the level of teaching was more instructional, he said.

“A lot of the Emiratis, they have multiple college degrees, master’s degrees, and these guys have trained for officer’s education and NCO (noncommissioned officer) education all throughout the world,” said Grentus. “These guys are trained. They are seasoned in their own ranks and they have specialties just like we do. And that was really neat to see.”

The mission of Iron Union 7, said Grentus, is to find the short-comings and gaps in understanding between the two forces. Part of finding those potential issues is developing continuity for the task force’s continuing mission of partnership in the theater.

“One of the reasons that we had 155 [Armored Brigade Combat Team] with us to support that continuity is because 2/1 [Armored Brigade Combat Team] rotates home next week and 155 will be here for the next Iron Union,” said Grentus.

Interoperability, or the ability to work in tandem, is one of the key tenets of Task Force Spartan. Grentus said it was a great experience getting to understand how another military functions and the challenges those soldiers face.

“Understanding how these guys operate, and they have challenges just like we do with communications, computer systems and manning. It is the same [challenges] that we face,” said Grentus. “We just wear a different uniform and speak a different language. Other than that, we are a lot alike and understanding and seeing that was really neat. Definitely something that I will take back.”

The end of exercise Iron Union 7 was not the end of a partnership that began before these Soldiers arrived in UAE, and would continue long after both forces returned home.

“I think now if I came back for it, either the same type exercise, planning exercise, or even a field exercise, I think I could be better prepared for it with my thought practices, manuals, and whatever else I can bring, and we can share with them,” said Grentus. “And, they are a very generous culture, very friendly, and I learned a lot. Definitely something that I would want to be involved with again.”