Ever since it gained its independence from Britain in 1946, Jordan has been on the frontline of the many conflicts that have raged on its borders. It is now threatened by the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, the ISIS insurgency in Iraq, and a civil war in Syria, which has caused more than half a million refuges to seek shelter in Jordan. Syria was also the location for the latest chemical attack by government forces on rebel fighters and innocent civilians.

The Jordanian border guards have to deal with frequent attempts to smuggle guns, ammunition and explosives from Syria into Jordan, but so far these have not included chemical weapons. However the authorities are taking no chances and the Jordanian Armed Forces have stepped up their CBRN defense training.

At the end of 2013 a mobile training team of Czech military experts from 31st Brigade of CBRN protection trained the Jordanian professionals from the armed forces, police, civil defence, Ministry of Health and other institutions. The training focused on sampling and identification of potentially lethal chemical agents. In May 2014 the Jordanian Armed Forces CBRN unit took part in the opening event of the Middle East’s biggest special operations conference and exhibition, the biennial Special Operations Force Exhibition and Conference (SOFEX), which took place at the King Abdullah I Airbase in Amman. Jordan’s Chemical Support Unit is part of the Special Operations Command’s 61st Special Reconnaissance Regiment and was involved in rescuing hostages from a terrorist group in front of His Majesty King Abdullah II, Supreme Commander of the Jordanian Armed Forces. The Chemical Support Unit is equipped with the versatile American High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as the Humvee, and the Al-Thalab, or Fox based on a Toyota LandCruiser pickup, built by Jankel Armouring Ltd, of Surrey in England.

In June, Jordanian armed forces were involved in CBRN missions as part of the Exercise Eager Lion, a recurring, multinational exercise designed to strength military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability between partner nations and enhance regional security and stability. Exercise Eager Lion 2014 was held in Jordan and included 22 countries from five different continents with more than 12,000 participants. The exercise is designed to provide multilateral forces with the opportunity to promote cooperation and interoperability among participation forces, build functional capacity, practice crisis management, and enhance readiness.

Prior to the exercise Canadian Special Operations Forces worked with the Jordanian military for over a year as they conducted training on CBRN equipment. They learned how to use chemical detection equipment and sampling equipment and the Jordanians took the lead on Eager Lion 2014. Capt. Chris Wood, Canadian Special Operations Ground Forces commander (CANSOFCOM) for the CBRN exercise took guidance from the Jordanian troops to accomplish the exercise. “This was not a mentorship,” said Wood. “We are in this together. We are a team. Eager Lion is about integration and the Jordanians are in the lead here”.
Technical and tactical proficiency on the equipment, along with integration of multinational soldiers was the objective for this mission and Wood feels they accomplished that goal. “Jordan is a very capable nation,” said Wood. “It has been a great experience to work with the Jordanians in their own country. They are motivated and put in the extra hours to accomplish the mission. They are ready for any mission put in front of them”.

The training completed by CANSOF-COM during the exercise was in support of the Government of Canada’s Global Partnership Program and the CBRN Strategy, both of which focus on preventative measures against CBRN threats to prevent and reduce the effects of a CBRN terrorist attack and increase global security. A Jordanian Explosive Ordnance Unit and United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces were also involved in a simulated chemical explosion at a mock Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp for a chemical response plan exercise held as part of Exercise Eager Lion 2014. This exercise replicated the plan of action Jordan would take if faced with a chemical attack at one of the many refugee camps that are located in the northern region of the country, close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders. Jordanian army specialists are also part of a NATO team of evaluators from the Operational Capability Concept (OCC) programme that is responsible for evaluating units from Partnership for Peace nations to ensure they are combat ready to participate in NATO-led operations. These include an evaluation centred around a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defense unit of the participating country.

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A defence photo-journalist for more than 30 years, and member of the Independent Defence Media Association (IDMA) and the European Security and Defence Press Association (ESDPA). David is the author of 18 defence-related books, and is former IHS Jane’s consultant editor and a regular correspondent for defence publications in the UK, USA, France, Poland, Brazil and Thailand.