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16 March 2006, 17:36

Special ops in the heart of the Middle East. The King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center will serve as the Middle East’s premier special forces training facility for counterterrorism and internal security missions.

By Andrew Stamer

Known as the heart of the Middle East, it is no wonder Jordan is emerging as a leader and an important partner in the fight against terrorism. Jordanian special operations forces are known for their skills and abilities in counterterrorism throughout this region of the world, and the nation wants to be known as the region’s leader in training special operations troops, according to Colonel Maher Halaseh, the project director for the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB).

To assist in this endeavor, a prestigious new facility—the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC)—is being designed and will be constructed. KASOTC will provide special-forces training in counterterrorism and internal security missions. U.S. Special Operations Command-Central (SOCCENT), KADDB, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) Transatlantic Programs Center have been working in concert to design KASOTC for this purpose.

As the U.S. Central Command representative on KASOTC, SOCCENT serves as the program manager for synchronizing, reporting, expediting and validating the project from concept phase until the handover of the completed facility to the Jordanian government, said a spokesperson from SOCCENT’s Plans, Policy and Programs directorate. This government-to-government collaboration will provide the Jordanian Ministry of Defense a state-of-the-art center and valuable resource for training special forces of the military, police and other civil and paramilitary organizations. On a much larger scale, the center will meet cross-training standards for hosting joint-operations training with allies and can prepare units for peacekeeping operations under the United Nations auspices. “In other words, all specialty equipment, target systems, range equipment, automation and simulation technology will be to current U.S. standards,” the SOCCENT representative said.

The project will enhance regional theater security interoperability and strengthen multi-national counterterrorism capability, the representative said. KASOTC will be available to allied forces for exercises and training, providing a common venue for those being trained to share combat experiences and evolving terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures. The center’s training curriculum will also enhance counter-proliferation, consequence management and civil defense capabilities.

Jordan’s centralized location is significant to friendly nations’ armies because they can train in the heart of the Middle East, Halaseh said. He also said that countries in the Middle East are becoming actively engaged in counterterrorism with their own special operations forces. The KASOTC locale will make it possible for Jordanian troops and coalition members to cross train in an environment many countries lack within their own borders.

In the war against terrorism, Jordan has been a strong and silent ally. Much of that changed last November when coordinated suicide attacks stunned the capital city of Amman and shocked the world. Besides being coalition partners in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jordan’s military is conducting U.N. missions elsewhere: in Eritrea and the Ivory Coast in Africa, as well as Haiti, Halaseh said.

In May 2005, Congress provided the Department of Defense $99 million to establish a special operations center. The project will be executed through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system. FMS is the U.S. government’s program for transferring defense articles, services and training to other nations and international organizations, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Web site. Countries approved to participate in the program may fund the requirements with their own funds or through U.S. government-sponsored assistance programs.

In this case, the funding was authorized under the FY05 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. In accordance with Congress’ intent, KASOTC is being built to train counterterrorism troops in support of the global war on terrorism, according to Thomas Jackson, Transatlantic Programs Center project manager.

Maritime Training at Aqaba

Aqaba holds strategic importance because it is the only seaport for the country, making it a natural area to hold special-forces training for Jordan’s naval personnel. In addition, the area—on the Red Sea—is already a designated military compound.

The Aqaba close quarters battle (CQB) facility is designed to train special teams in all facets of maritime counterterrorism skills in a realistic environment, including the ability to conduct air, diving or seaborne assaults. The design makes it possible for these assaults to be conducted individually or simultaneously, Jackson said.

The maritime training facility will have three key features: a mock-up ship, a CQB building and a covered walkway linking them. The Corps has been working closely with KADDB and SOCCENT to include design elements that would commonly be found in a port area. The CQB, walkway and various deck levels will be fitted with ship’s deck boxes, rigging, ventilators and other miscellaneous items. These will help train the troops in a realistic setting because the items can either provide cover or restrict movement. Obstacles can also be placed in various shapes and form on the ship to help train in special search operations.

“Using the latest technology available, we will continue working with our customers to design these facilities with any obstacles that may be found during true maritime missions,” Jackson said.

Urban Training at Yajooz

Until recently, Yajooz was bustling with the roar of mining equipment. All of that stopped when this site was chosen to become part of the KASOTC. Soon, this remote area outside of Amman will be busy with the sounds of construction on a variety of training areas. Construction at Yajooz will take full advantage of the dramatic terrain, which is lined with steep cliffs and a rough, rocky landscape.

The facility is also designed to meet the important requirement of live fire in a realistic operational setting. Beyond the ranges, there will also be CQB facilities built in modern urban, typical village and countryside settings. Here, troops can practice a multitude of essential training.

In Design

Stanley Consultants is one of the Corps’ indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contractors and was chosen to take the design from the master-plan phase through the design and development of the two sites, said Christopher Day, a Stanley Consultants project engineer.

Early January began an aggressive five-month race to reach full design, according to Day. He added the company has committed the people to get the job done, about 25 stateside and another 20 in Jordan. Besides being in contact with the Corps, Day said he works with KADDB and SOCCENT almost daily, and the whole team works well together.

“The guys on the ground in Jordan from SOCCENT have been a big help” because they can ask questions and the in-country liaisons are able to get answers quickly, Day said. This has helped move the design along.

While the design is moving along, the acquisition of the ship and aircraft mock-ups are going forward as well, Jackson said. “We’re taking the customers’ requirements and turning them into reality with SOCCENT’s input and expertise,” he said.

The U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), headquartered in Orlando, Fla., has also been asked for its expertise. During the third week of January, the Jordanians, PEO STRI, Stanley Consultants and the Corps’ team met in Orlando to sort out equipment needs.

Having the latest in equipment is important to KASOTC’s design because it will provide the most realistic training possible within this controlled environment, the SOCCENT representative said. And to meet this goal, the team needed to define the timeline they were working under, Jackson said, because some of the more specialized equipment can take from six to 18 months to deliver.

The strategy is to get construction started parallel to the date that will be set for ordering the specialty equipment. “In early spring, construction on the preliminary phase to place a security fence, offices and guard stations should begin. And construction on the infrastructure and remaining support facilities will begin when the contract is awarded, which we hope is done by this summer,” Jackson said.

Running the construction and procurement of goods parallel greatly increases the chances of getting the project done on schedule. “Our mandate is to ensure design aspects are complete in time to obligate construction contracts before the end of the fiscal year. It’s the busiest and perhaps most critical phase of the project,” the SOCCENT representative said.

Once started, construction is estimated to take about two years. “Of course, if any modifications to the design come up or if there are any delays with materials, then it may take a bit longer,” Jackson said.

That is why a boots-on-the-ground approach helps. “Having a resident office in Jordan for this project is one way we can try to keep it on schedule because everything can then be dealt with on site. The delivery schedule is important in any project, but we are also committed to delivering a quality product for the Jordanian government to use in their efforts to combat terrorism. Our team is proud to be helping them in their efforts,” Jackson said.

“The role of the Corps of Engineers is very essential in this facility because they design the facility, and they will supervise the construction,” Halaseh said. “Their role is very essential for building this facility, and the help we are getting from them is fabulous.”

A resident office to oversee the construction and contract management will also make it possible for the Corps’ personnel responsible for the success to regularly tour the sites, meet with the customer and contractors and conduct construction quality assurance. It is also important to coordinate this work with the Military Assistance Program Office at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jackson said.

“Having someone located in Jordan gives us better oversight of the facility’s progress. It also makes it possible to ensure our customer will receive quality facilities they can use to train in,” he said. The end result will remain unchanged—the delivery of what may be one of the most important facilities to combating terrorism in the heart of the Middle East.

Andrew Stamer is a public affairs specialist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Transatlantic Programs Center.