TEL AVIV, Israel — U.S. Navy warships set anchor in the Mediterranean Sea on the coast of Israel as Israeli Defense Forces, joined by more than 1,000 U.S. service members, prepared for a simulated missile attack against the capital city. Joint training exercise Juniper Cobra 10, a biennial event between the two nations, is designed to improve combined Israeli-U.S. missile defense operations, and this year the Ohio Army National Guard has a new role.
Nine Soldiers from the Ohio Army National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force (CERF) will join about 1,000 soldiers from the 357th Air & Missile Defense Detachment out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, and U.S. European Command.
Prior to this year's exercise, National Guard involvement had been limited to the staff level, but the Ohio CERF has made a name for itself. Since its inception four and a half years ago, they have become the top-rated unit of its kind in the U.S., said Sgt. 1st Class David Nickerson, the noncommissioned officer in charge.
"This is the first time the National Guard has had involvement on the ground, their involvement has been limited to the staff level and only one or two people," said Maj. Kevin Meislin, the National Guard Bureau operations officer. "This is the first year the National Guard will really have boots on the ground for operations."
The Ohioans have been observing and participating in training with the Israeli Home Front Command (HFC) Search and Rescue School, Unit Training Branch. The HFC is similar to the National Guard in structure and mission. It is comprised mainly of reservists and serves the people of Israel through disaster relief, nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) operations, search and rescue, and supporting the Israeli Defense Force, which conducts all combat operations.
Only three other state National Guards have done any type of exchange or training with the Israelis, the majority of which have been conducted in the U.S.
"Any exchange is important," Meislin said. "The CERF is very important to the HFC because they are exact counterparts. They are just really into saving lives no matter where it is, and so are we, so it's a good fit."
The CERF team has been actively engaged during the Israeli classes and demonstrations, Nickerson said. "There a lot of respect on both sides. It's been a really positive experience so far," he said.
The initial training included HFC displays of troop and vehicle decontamination lines and both U.S. and Israeli NBC detection equipment and procedures. All of the tasks, both U.S. and Israeli methods, will be performed by the joint force during the exercise.
"This is everyday real life to them," Nickerson said. "So if we can provide fresh ideas to assist them, that is what we want to do."