SOCEUR sponsors international SOF exercise

Jackal Stone 10, a multi-national special operations forces military exercise, concluded in Poland and Lithuania on Sept. 27, marking the third consecutive year of the capstone training event for U.S. Special Operations Command Europe.

More than 1,100 SOF members from Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and the United States participated in the exercise, held Sept. 13 – 27, aimed at enhancing the capabilities and interoperability among the participating forces.

Each year, SOCEUR conducts Jackal Stone, the largest and most comprehensive annual SOF exercise within Europe, to provide special operations forces the opportunity to train together and build mutual respect, while sharing doctrinal concepts, training concepts and various skill sets.

SOCEUR personnel provided key logistic, operational, medical, aviation, personnel and public affairs staff support to the host nations and four other countries participating in the exercise.

Col. Duke Christie, SOCEUR J-3, said the command conducted the Jackal Stone exercise with a counterinsurgency (COIN) and ground level-developed intelligence scenario for the first time this year, simulating conditions in COIN environments such as  Afghanistan.

“The lessons we learned in running this exercise will enable us to create an even better plan for training U.S. and partner nation Special Operations Forces to operate on the irregular but highly lethal battlefields in the future,” Christie said.

At the tactical level, SOF units conducted high-action fast rope insertion/exertion system training; naval visit, board, search and seizure training; helicopter aerial refueling; and both water drop and free fall parachute training to improve their skills.

But perhaps even more importantly, SOF operators perfected some of their lower profile skills, too. For example, they worked to uncover clues from walk-in informants and conduct key leader engagements (also known as K.L.E.s) with role players acting as local officials. Most of the intelligence information in the exercise was only available through contact with role players who represented the local population.

Perfecting these myriad skills allowed them to better conduct more complex, surgical direct action and special reconnaissance missions and gain situational awareness of the enemy, in order to determine the humanitarian needs of the populace and support the overall counterinsurgency operation.

Christie said the exercise is critically important as part of SOCEUR’s mission to develop SOF that meet NATO standards for interoperability, especially at the operational level, and that this year’s event provided a model for next year’s Jackal Stone exercise.

“It is the best venue possible for capstone training of SOF in combined environments, in particular for advanced staff training in the CJSOTF [Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force],” Christie said. “Jackal Stone 11 should be even better, with further development of COIN operations as well as better role player and Information Operations support at all levels.”

As for the benefits of partner nation SOF personnel who took part in the exercise, Christie shared comments from a conversation he had with an experienced allied nation SOF officer who played a critical role running current operations in the CJSOTF Joint Intelligence and Operations Center.

“This is the first U.S.-sponsored exercise I have been on where the Americans were not always out front,” the officer said.

Another experienced professional, observing the initial field training exercises, said “This CJSOTF could go to war and operate successfully right now.”

Reflecting on the successes of this year’s Jackal Stone 10 exercise, Christie was particularly proud of  how the exercise participants will be able to take the skills they learned and apply them to ongoing and future coalition operations.

“Jackal Stone 10 was a tremendous success, not because SOCEUR sponsored it, but because all participating nations sent some of their very finest special operations and regular forces personnel to plan, coordinate, and conduct the exercise,” Christie said. “And, because our Polish and Lithuanian host countries displayed superb flexibility in every way, while supporting the training flawlessly.

“This fully combined and integrated exercise is more than just the application of a training methodology; it actually forms a framework for future coalition SOF operations.”