Shoulder patch of the Juniper Falcon military exercise. (IDF Spokesperson) (IDF Spokesperson)
Juniper-Falcon shoulder patch

IDF and US military launch what might be the last biennial joint military exercise of this type.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

About 1,000 American and Israeli soldiers are holding a joint military exercise this week focusing on training the two air and ground forces to work together, the U.S. military announced Thursday.

“In accordance with long-standing bilateral agreements, US European Command (USEUCOM) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have begun Exercise JUNIPER FALCON 2021 (JF21) at various locations in both Israel and Germany,” said a statement from the US European Command (USEUCOM).

However, after two decades, this might be the last time the biennial Juniper-Falcon exercise is held after outgoing President Donald Trump issued an order transferring Israel from being under USEUCOM to the Central Command (CENTCOM) area that is centered in the Middle East.

“The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between both nations’ militaries and ensure US and Israeli forces are ready and prepared to respond to any contingency, particularly those involving ballistic missile defense or crisis response,” USEUCOM said. “The JUNIPER FALCON exercise series serves as an opportunity for US military personnel and the IDF to exercise together and to learn from one another.”

“The primary goal of the exercise is to strengthen the cooperation, coordination, and mutual learning between the two militaries, while improving their joint ability to defend against various threats,” the Israel Air Force said in a separate statement, adding that it “plays a significant role in the cooperation between the two militaries. The exercise will include different units, including the IAF Air Defense Division, the IDF Operations Directorate, the Israeli Navy, logistics units, and medical personnel.”

Hundreds of US armed forces personnel are in Israel, while IDF soldiers and air crews are in Germany as the two sides practice different scenarios and allow troops to hone their communications and coordination skills.

“It’s actually fun, it’s good vibes,” said one Israeli who participated in a previous Juniper-Falcon exercise, noting that soldiers from different units and with different tasks got to work with their American counterparts for several days and get to know them.

“It’s a cool learning experience. We learn a lot from them and they learn a lot from us…you have meals together and joint meetings where you get to know them and make connections. Some of them goout and they see Israel, and it’s a great chance for them to get to know Israel.”

The two countries also hold a larger ground forces exercise, Juniper-Cobra, involving thousands of troops, but after months of planning, last year’s Juniper-Cobra was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While until now the Juniper-Falcon exercise has mixed IDF troops with American soldiers stationed in Europe, there’s a good chance that the next exercise of this type will be held under the auspices of CENTCOM, meaning IDF soldiers will work with American troops stationed at bases hosted by Israel’s new Middle East partners, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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