Surrounded by the clear blue skies and bright orange sand of Oman, Omani and U.S. forces conducted a simulated assault against dozens of enemy fighters, Jan. 31, 2018, in the culminating event of Inferno Creek 18, a three-week training exercise conducted by the U.S. and Omani armies near Thumrait, Oman.
The joint exercise allowed multiple elements of both militaries to practice working together, with the countries each contributing scouts, mortars, infantry, engineers, and other elements that worked hand-in-hand to complete their task: an assault on a simulated enemy compound followed by a hasty defense against an armored enemy counterattack.
The success of the training mission relied on seeds planted three weeks before when the leaders met to work through the military decision-making process, or MDMP, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan M. Genge, the U.S. task force commander for the exercise.
“It’s been great since day one, the Omanis coming in right on time, every day, for MDMP, energetic, ready to tackle the task of the day,” he said. “They’ve come in with their experiences, we’ve learned from that as well. They took the lead in a lot of things with MDMP as well as [course of action] development, the wargaming.”
For the Soldiers on the ground, working with the Omanis presented new challenges but allowed for great experiences.
“I feel pretty excited about it, because I’m working with someone from an entirely different country,” said Pfc. Tyiamarte J. Linley Jr., a mortarman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “New language, new culture, new everything, and it’s just fascinating, just learning more about a different country, a different person, completely.”
The first elements hitting the objective were the scouts. Omani vehicles dropped off U.S. forces near their planned observation posts, and most of the Americans dismounted to go on foot the last few hundred meters to observe the battlefield. A few of the Americans went with the Omani vehicles, which acted as mobile weapon platforms during the fight.
“At first, before the maneuver force gets to the objective, we will be observing the objective area, identifying key personnel, key weapon systems, any obstacles that could hinder their movement up to the objective,” said Cpl. Jacob Kehler, the sniper team noncommissioned officer for the exercise. “Once they get up to 100 meters or so, right before their assault on the objective, we’ll transition up north to where we’re expecting an enemy armored reconnaissance unit.”
As the maneuver force, made up primarily of Omani and U.S. infantry and engineers, made its way up, the scouts and infantry automatic weapons teams laid down a base of fire. With multiple teams from two armies fighting at once, coordination was a challenge.
“It really tests our preparedness and our rehearsals,” said Kehler, “to be able to coordinate between different units, us being scouts and the infantry and the added personnel of the Omanis. So the coordination between all units really has to be on point, it really tests how well you can conduct everything going on, how proficient you are at communication between the units.”
An engineer team with personnel from each force breached the wire protecting the target compound with Bangalore torpedoes, explosive tubes made for clearing obstacles, before the U.S. and Omani infantry squads poured through the gap created by the detonation. Finally, an Omani rocket-propelled grenade team destroyed a simulated T-72 tank that was attempting to take back the compound.
While the exercise was complex, junior leaders emphasized to their Soldiers the importance of learning to work with other forces.
“We were up in Iraq for a couple weeks back in November,” said Kehler. “And, when we were up there, there were British forces, Danish forces, and then French forces. So Americans aren’t the only people in these combat zones right now. So being able to communicate even between those is very key to not having any fratricide, being able to work smoothly, and contributing to the combined effort is very important.”
Genge, the task force commander, agreed and praised the value of the exercise for reinforcing and building partnerships. He also expressed a hope that, while 2018 was the largest iteration of the annual exercise yet, it would grow even larger.
“Inferno Creek 2018 is an opportunity for the US and our partner, the Omanis, to bridge a gap and build a relationship here in the Middle East and to develop ourselves at the company and tactical level and now make our way from the lower levels, the individual, all the way up to the battalion and, looking to the future, maybe make our way up to the brigade level and higher with not only just the maneuver but maybe a command post exercise,” said Genge.