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Israeli, American armed forces prepare for bilateral exercise

Brig. Gen. Mark Loeben speaks to a crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members during an opening ceremony for exercise Juniper Cobra 14 May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel. The exercise is designed to train combined U.S. and Israeli militaries to respond as a combined force to a regional crisis. Loeben is the U.S. European Command Juniper Cobra 14 exercise director. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

Brig. Gen. Mark Loeben speaks to a crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members during an opening ceremony for exercise Juniper Cobra 14 May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel. The exercise is designed to train combined U.S. and Israeli militaries to respond as a combined force to a regional crisis. Loeben is the U.S. European Command Juniper Cobra 14 exercise director. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

A crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members listen as Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Tamir Heiman speaks during an opening ceremony for the Juniper Cobra 14 exercise May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel.  JC14 is a combined exercise designed to improve interoperability between the two countries' armed forces. Heiman is the head of training and doctrine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

A crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members listen as Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Tamir Heiman speaks during an opening ceremony for the Juniper Cobra 14 exercise May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel. JC14 is a combined exercise designed to improve interoperability between the two countries' armed forces. Heiman is the head of training and doctrine. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat speaks to a crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members during an opening ceremony for the Juniper Cobra 14 exercise May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel.  The goal of JC14 is to exercise both nations' active missile defense forces and to improve their combined ability to defend against missile attacks. Shohat is the Air Defense Forces commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat speaks to a crowd of U.S. and Israeli service members during an opening ceremony for the Juniper Cobra 14 exercise May 15, 2014, at Hatzor Air Base, Israel. The goal of JC14 is to exercise both nations' active missile defense forces and to improve their combined ability to defend against missile attacks. Shohat is the Air Defense Forces commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden)

HATZOR AIR BASE, Israel (AFNS) -- With the Star of David or the Stars and Stripes on their patches, the hundreds of U.S. and Israeli service members will commence Juniper Cobra 14, a five-day bilateral computer-simulated defense exercise, throughout Israel May beginning next week.

More than 200 service members from both nations’ militaries conducted an opening ceremony at Hatzor Air Base, Israel, May 15 in advance of the exercise aimed at improving the combined defense capabilities and the overall interoperability of U.S. European Command and the Israel Defense Forces.

“This is a priority for me, for European command, for Gen. Breedlove (the U.S. European Command commander) and for the United States,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Loeben, the EUCOM director of analysis and assessments and JC14 director. “Why is it a priority? Because Israel is a key partner. A partner with whom we share so much in terms of values, in terms of a love of democracy and freedom, and in terms of a hope for peace, a desire for a peaceful Middle East.”

Exercise planners designed JC14 to improve the cooperative defense of Israel between the two countries’ militaries as part of an agreement to hold bilateral training on a regular basis.

“The Juniper Cobra 2014 exercise reflects another layer in the deep long-standing relationship between Israel and the United States,” said Israeli Defense Force Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat, the Air Defense Forces commander. “This storied relationship is cherished by both countries and is based on shared values including democracy, peace and freedom. I’m confident that together we will pave the way to building a strong and profound friendship between our forces.”

The exercise will immerse both militaries into a computer-assisted exercise through simulations aimed at providing quality training in defense, crisis resupply, foreign disaster response and foreign humanitarian assistance.

Planning for JC14 began more than a year and a half ago. While the defensive exercise scenario encompasses the overall situation in the Middle East, it is not related to any specific current events in the region.

“The unstable situation in the Middle East and its potential to escalate into regional conflict exists now just as much as it has in the past,” said IDF Brig. Gen. Tamir Heiman, the head of training and doctrine. “Therefore, we must train and prepare in order to guarantee that the values we protect -- the values of freedom, democracy and human rights -- will prevail; the same values that are being brutally trampled over on a daily basis in civil wars and upheavals throughout the Middle East.”

The American contingent comprises more than 700 U.S. service members working alongside their Israeli counterparts, as well as more than 1,300 Americans participating in the exercise throughout Europe and the United States. The exercise also represents the seventh of its kind since 2001, and is EUCOM’s largest exercise of 2014.

Unlike Austere Challenge 12, executed in October of 2012, the U.S. military did not transport any military equipment to Israel beyond supporting gear for exercise participants for JC14.

Both nations’ militaries agreed a computer-simulated exercise would be the most cost-effective and efficient way to meet their objectives as opposed to practicing a full-scale deployment of U.S. equipment into Israel.

“You all are professionals and sharing this learning experience together,” Loeben said. “I encourage you to get to know one another -- Israel and the United States. Talk to each other, learn about each other’s cultures, but more importantly, learn how to work together -- that’s why we’re here.”

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