Feb. 12 (UPI) -- A large-scale, two-week joint exercise of the U.S. Army's Task Force Spartan and the United Arab Emirates' Land Forces concluded successfully this week.
The partner nations executed situational training exercises, largely concentrating on tank warfare proficiency, at the UAE's Al Hamra Training Center in a recurring event known as Iron Union 14.
The exercise paid attention to the additional challenges in mounting a training mission in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Central Command said on Friday.
"It's been an interesting process," Capt. Ryan McGovern of the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, said in a press release. "I think the real challenge is being able to accomplish this in light of the COVID-19 conditions."
"This is really the first bilateral maneuver exercise that ARCENT [Army Central Command] is doing under COVID-19 conditions. Our mitigation measures have been effective. It's a good indicator that the maneuver brigade supporting Task Force Spartan can conduct further exercises with bilateral partners both herein UAE and across the region," McGovern said.
U.S. Army Command describes Task Force Spartan, held this year from Jan. 25 to Feb. 6, as "a unique, multi-component organization, made up of active Army and National Guard units, rounded out by U.S. Army Reserve support units" and an element of Operation Spartan Shield, "a U.S. military posture in Southwest Asia sufficient to strengthen our defense relationships and build partner capacity."
The UAE's armored fighting vehicles include French and Italian-made tanks.
The U.S. Army brought M1 Abrams tanks to the exercise, which the Emirates' official news agency described as "aimed at developing and promoting ties between both countries through training and exchanging of military expertise."
Despite restrictions, the first large-scale exercise of Task Force Spartan conducted under COVID-19 conditions was regarded as a success.
"As some COVID-19 restrictions have eased and we're able to conduct more face-to-face training, we're seeing it's as if we haven't missed a beat," said Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, Task Force Spartan commander.
"I am grateful to our Emirati hosts this week and extremely impressed by their professionalism and dedication as a partner in the region. I look forward to many more of these opportunities in the future," Hamilton said.
Iron Union 14 followed an exercise in January involving the UAE's AE Presidential Guard and U.S. Marine Corps' Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response unit in live-fire training which included 60 mm mortar systems, snipers, and small unit tactics.