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U.S.-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Joint Infantry Training

With increased combat activities in the Middle East during the First Gulf War in 1991 and through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of the 2000's, the U.S. Marine Corps has used America's strategic alliance with Israel to better train and prepare its soldiers for battle.  Israel is known as having one of the most tactically advanced infantry forces in the world and they are one of few countries in the Middle East that allows Marines to train on its soil with soldiers from Israel Defense Forces.

In late November and early December 1998, Marine forces conducted land and sea maneuvers for nearly two weeks in the Negev desert. The exercises were reportedly routine and not related to tensions with Iraq and a U.S. Embassy spokesman said the Marines were conducting the exercises alone.

In April 2005, Marines from the Sixth Fleet who specialize in extraction operations to evacuate U.S. personnel from hostile territory conducted joint maneuvers with their Israeli counterparts. The Marines simulated an armed assault from the sea while IDF forces maneuvered inland until the two forces met. Military sources said the operation was code named “Kaya Green.”

In June 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers finished construction of a 7.4 square mile fake city in the heart of the Negev desert that Israel will use for simulated urban combat training, often together with Marines. "This is something developed by us in cooperation with the U.S. Army; we intend for it to become a valuable center of knowledge that will also benefit our American allies and other friends," said Brig. Gen. Uzi Moskovich, commander of Israel's National Ground Training Center.

In March 2008, US and Israeli forces initiated a joint battle simulation exercise, code-named "Juniper Falcon," designed to improve coordination between the two countries’ armed forces. The joint simulation was part of a general agreement between the two countries to to hold regular joint training exercises aimed at boosting “interoperability, understanding and cooperation,” said a military statement released after the exercise was completed. The two forces participated in "Juniped Falcon" again in 2010.

In August 2011, a group of 50 specialized Marines trained for two weeks at the Urban Warfare Training facility in southern Israel, mostly working on close-quarter battle. "[The Marines] have been trained to re-capture buildings and to clear out terrorist threats inside of a building, but they've never been trained on how to you know clear a building, and move to another one clear it and move to another one," Marine Platoon Commander Mike Jevons said.

In August 2013, Givati Brigade Special Forces conducted a joint exercise with units from the Marine Corps to examine various techniques of urban warfare, to teach the IDF approach to urban warfare and to learn about the Marines’ operational experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. The exercise took place over three days at the Urban Warfare Training. The purpose of the exercise was for each unit to learn from the operational experience of the other in fighting in urban terrain. 

The U.S. military sent 173 paratroopers to train with the Egoz Guerilla Warfare Unit of the IDF Golani Brigade during late November and early December 2015. For one week the soldiers trained together, practicing at the urban warfare training center at Tze'elim base, and running field exercises. The American troops arrived in Israel toting their weapons and personal combat gear. The differences in the way things were run were obvious, for example the Americans relied on GPS navigation systems to guide them to their destinations, while Israeli soldiers were required to learn their paths ahead of time from a map.

IDF Special Forces and U.S. Marines engaged in a joint training exercise in the Negev Desert during July 2016, dubbed “Noble Shirley”. The soldiers trained for battle against terrorists by practicing landing helicopters in stressful situations, urban warfare, and military takeover techniques. Groups also practiced bringing medical aid to injured soldiers behind enemy lines.

Sources: IDF Spokesperson's Office;
Opall-Rome, Barbara. “Marines to train at new Israeli combat center,” Marine Corps Times (June 24, 2007);
Julie Stahl. “US Marines Train in Israeli Warfare Camp,” CBN News (August 17, 2011);
“Special Training: U.S. Marines vs. Givati Special Forces,” IDF Blog (August 15, 2013);
Zitun, Yoav. “American paratroopers train with IDF's Egoz unit in Israel,” YNet News (December 3, 2015);
“'IDF special forces, US Marines train for combating ISIS in Negev drill,'” Jerusalem Post (July 28, 2016)