U.S. 5th Fleet launches first-ever Central Partnership Station exercise in Lebanon combining training and humanitarian assistance
WASHINGTON – The U.S. 5th Fleet begins the inaugural Central Partnership Station exercise in Lebanon, designed to marry partner-building military training with humanitarian work within U.S. Central Command.
The exercise, which mirrors the series of partnership stations that have been conducted in US Southern Command, US Africa Command and US Indo-Pacific Command, will increase the ability of the Lebanese Armed Forces to conduct missions such as counter mining, shipbuilding and public disaster related health activities, as well as the delivery of products like infant formula to the Middle East partner country, 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told Defense News.
Expeditionary Rapid Transport (EPF) Choctaw County arrived in Beirut today for the exercise, after personnel flew in last week to prepare for it. About 40 members of the US Navy and the army will participate in the event alongside their Lebanese counterparts. The exercise is scheduled to last until September 29.
“The fact that [U.S. Naval Forces Central Command] conducting its first-ever mission from Central Partnership Station is a testament to the success and effectiveness of these efforts already established in other regions, ”said Hawkins. “We are doing this in the Middle East because we recognize that there is an opportunity to build the capacity of partners as well as to do humanitarian work that is needed. “
During the event, a Seabee construction battalion assigned to the commander of Task Force 56 will train their Lebanese counterparts, as will explosive ordnance disposal technicians and divers assigned to CTF-52. A maritime engagement team will teach visitation, embarkation, search and seizure techniques to enhance maritime security in Lebanese waters. Choctaw County will host a leadership conference during the two-week event to foster a closer military relationship between the U.S. and Lebanese armed forces.
Among the most important jobs for the event, however, will be medical training for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. A NAVCENT health engagement team will teach topics such as preventive medicine, disaster preparedness and response, drinking water testing and treatment, communicable disease contact tracing and spill response. of hazardous materials, said Hawkins. Along with this work, the Navy will also send goods to meet humanitarian needs in the region.
Lebanon is currently facing many challenges, including activities funded by Iran by the terrorist group Hezbollah, instability and terrorist activities in neighboring Syria, and illegal immigration across the land borders with Syria and by sea in the Mediterranean.
Hawkins said that building the capacity and capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces is “essential to maintain regional maritime security and stability”.
The US Navy has previously held partnership station exercises in locations where its presence is limited. In the past, Africa Partnership Station events have included assistance with small boat maintenance, maritime law enforcement training, tactical combat casualty care, medical exchanges and community relations events across the continent. Past events at the Southern Partnership Station have included EOD and diving training, medical work, and even a water well construction project in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.
In INDOPACOM, although the Navy is active in high-end training and operations alongside its larger allies and naval partners, the Pacific Partnership has been a vehicle for collaborating with the region’s smaller armed forces. in a more accessible and convenient way, increasing their army while providing medical and dental services to local populations in need, building port infrastructure and undertaking other activities that serve the region.
Although the Navy has a much larger presence in CENTCOM than it does in AFRICOM or SOUTHCOM, the inaugural exercise at the Central Partnership Station comes as the Navy has its smallest obligation to the region in the over the past two decades. The US mission in Afghanistan is over, and as recent aircraft carrier strike groups have dropped munitions on targets in Iraq and Syria, demand for aircraft carriers is drastically reduced. The Essex Amphibious Ready Group is now at CENTCOM, having recently relieved the Iwo Jima ARG, but as the Pentagon completes a comprehensive posture review that takes into account post-Afghanistan demands in the Middle East, it is possible that capital ships like aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships could spend more time in the Pacific and Europe and less time in CENTCOM.
If that were to happen, it would put more pressure on regional partners to play a greater role in security in the Middle East, which faces lingering tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as it looms large. are transformed into proxy wars and Iranian attacks on commercial trafficking; refugee migration due to conflict and climate change; and threats from various terrorist groups.
Hawkins made it clear that the launch of the Central Partnership Station was unrelated to the withdrawal to Afghanistan and had in fact been in the planning stage for months.
“We are looking to do more with our partners in the region, and we believe this is essential: military engagements like these improve interoperability, they strengthen partner capabilities, and that translates into security and improved regional stability. This is the main thing, ”he said. “It is really our priority here at NAVCENT to strengthen and expand capacity building with regional partners. “
If this exercise in Lebanon is deemed successful in enhancing the military’s ability to conduct humanitarian assistance and other operations, the US Navy will likely expand the Partnership Central Station into a regular event just like those of other combat commands.
“Central Partnership Station includes a series of subject matter expert exchanges between NAVCENT personnel and our Lebanese Armed Forces partners on mine action, disaster response, public health and construction capabilities. So given that, our measure is whether or not we’re improving capabilities in those areas, ”Hawkins said.
“If we find that we have had the desired effect and that it has been beneficial for the deepening of military-to-military relations with the Lebanese Armed Forces, then we will certainly seek to do more in the region with our partners in this direction” , did he declare. added.
Megan Eckstein is the naval war reporter for Defense News. It has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on US Navy and Marine Corps operations, procurement programs, and budgets. She has reported on four geographic fleets and is happiest reporting stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumnus.