In a non-descript building, tucked away among the pines of North Carolina, 24 officers of the Egyptian armed forces were hard at work. They were hand-selected by their commanders to take part in a scenario-based information exchange alongside U.S. Military Information Support Operations and civil affairs Soldiers from Sept. 14 to 25, at the Special Operations Mission Training Center.
The purpose of the IFX was to strengthen military-to-military cooperation and interoperability between Egypt and the U.S., while enhancing Egyptís regional stability by practicing tactics, techniques, and procedures traditionally carried out by MISO and civil affairs forces during a humanitarian and disaster relief scenario.
"Egyptian armed forces personnel are developing courses of action then applying solutions to very complicated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenarios," said Master Sgt. Christopher Douglas, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the Information Operations Division at Special Operations Command-Central. "The same actions and solutions being used in these scenarios can also be applied to situations involving any combatant command or country in the world today."
The U.S. Army routinely operates with allies and works with nations around the world. For this particular exchange, Egyptian and U.S. personnel worked together to enhance mutual, unconventional defense capabilities.
"The employment of non-lethal capabilities, to include military information support operations and civil affairs, are important domestically and internationally," said Douglas. "To ensure that not only are we combating violent extremists, but that we are able to clearly communicate that message to the domestic and international populations."
The IFX gave the Egyptian and U.S. militaries the opportunity to learn each otherís methods for effectively communicating that message and exercising MISO and civil affairs programs.
"What itís preparing us for is not only for us to go and work with the Egyptian military as they implement their programs, but also for them to come and work on our staff or with our teams when it is necessary," said Capt. Nolan Peterson, civil affairs team leader for Company C, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion. "Working in this coalition-type environment is very important to our government," he said.
Both nations, as well as Egyptís surrounding region, benefit from mutual cooperation because it ultimately develops a stronger, more compatible partnership ready and prepared to address future challenges.
"We can work together effectively using similar doctrine and procedures that we now know thanks to exercises like this," said Capt. Troy Peterson, a MISO detachment commander. "We will definitely come out of this better equipped to work together in the future."
With the surrounding regions of Egypt in current turmoil, Egyptian armed forces and the U.S. military concluded this IFX better equipped and prepared to carry out MISO and civil affairs tactics to establish security and stability within the region.
"It allows us to gain an advantage in working with the Egyptians so that we understand their tactics, techniques and procedures, and they understand ours," said Douglas.
"There is a constant, current terrorist threat that is being fought hand-in-hand not only in Libya to the west, but in the Sinai Peninsula to the border of Egypt, which follows itself right on up to the Gaza Strip," said Maj. Tommy Pratt, director of operations for the Office of Military Cooperation, U.S. Embassy, Cairo. "Egypt is actively engaged in fighting terrorist activities to include the Islamic state and the Islamic land ISIL and ISIS."
With these threats to security, Egyptian armed forces have enhanced their non-lethal capabilities by working alongside the U.S. to ensure that their defenses can stand alone as a strong nation rising above the volatile region.
"We donít want to have to go to another country or another part of the world and always be in charge, we want to help our allies and our partners have the capacity to react to problems by themselves," said Peterson.
"Egypt does not want to depend on anyone," Pratt said. "They are a very strong nation and they believe they can fix these problems with some of these tactical and technical proficiencies that come along with learning about psychological operations"
Together or apart, both nations have forged a continuous partnership with the same goal ó to promote regional security and stability through non-lethal defensive capabilities.
"Why shoot a bazooka when you can have a couple of words," said Pratt.