Forces converge for Emerald Warrior 2016

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- Several hundred U.S. and partner-nation military members gathered inside King Auditorium here May 2 for a mass in-briefing session that marked the official kick off of Emerald Warrior 2016.

Emerald Warrior is an annual Defense Department exercise that focuses on irregular warfare and hones special operations forces air and ground combat skills. The two-week exercise will allow participants to execute advanced tactical scenarios and strengthen joint warfighting relationships for future deployments. The exercise leverages lessons learned from past and current overseas contingency operations to provide trained and ready forces to combatant commanders.

Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas, the U.S. Special Operations Command commander, addressed the crowd at the briefing and declared Emerald Warrior a “pivotally important exercise.”

“We have to transform ourselves through these types of exercises to prepare for the future fight that will be out there,” Thomas said.

The exercise is hosted by Air Force Special Operations Command, and it allows U.S. special operations forces and partner nation participants to train together to strengthen their relationships and develop interoperability for future deployments. Special operations personnel use the exercise as a way to further develop tactics, techniques and procedures for emerging concepts of special operations forces warfare.

“This is about interoperability, joint operations and working with partner nations to get better as a team,” said Air Force Col. Michael Lee, the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center deputy commander and Emerald Warrior 2016 exercise director.

This year’s iteration of Emerald Warrior features more than 1,500 special operations and conventional personnel to include Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine special operations assets and several partner nation allies. The exercise will employ more than 40 aircraft and will take place in locations throughout the southeastern U.S. in Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and the Gulf of Mexico.