Editorial Advisory Panel Member Rob McAlister takes an inside look at Jordan's special forces training centre.
Robert McAlister, Editorial Advisory Panel Member and Director at Glenbarr Consultancy, at the KASOTC training centre in Jordan
Located on the outskirts of the capital city of Amman, Jordan, the sound of gunfire, explosions, helicopters and screeching tyres reverberate around the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Centre.
On May 20, 2009, Jordan's King Abdullah II officially opened the facility, which is widely believed to be the most advanced special operations training complex of its kind in the world.
The massive 6,000-acre centre – KASOTC – is dedicated to the training of special forces operators from around the world. It has everything it needs to train operators – a mock village, an embassy compound, driving and shooting ranges, and even an Airbus A300 with targets to simulate hostage scenarios.
“If special operations units are the tip of the spear, then KASOTC is the sharpening-tool that hones it," the centre's website states. It certainly lives up to its motto: "Where advanced training meets advanced technology.”
The centre has a whole town to train in (image: KASOTC)
Surprisingly for somewhere that majors on the perceived ‘dark arts’ of counter terrorism and special operations style training, there is a wealth of open source information available on KASOTC, both positive and negative.
Some of this information is fairly politically biased and relates to how the centre was built and financed by the US, with headlines such as Disneyland for Special Forces, branded as privatising anti-terror training, a playground for overseas commercial interests, or just humorous stories or slick videos of its legendary Annual Warrior Competition.
As with all things it’s a matter of perspective, and for me, quite simply, it’s a matter of whether KASOTC is a good or bad training venue for future courses colleagues in my field of work would choose and benefit from.
KASOTC's unique features include:
- 67 training buildings, including everything from villas, an embassy, commercial buildings, a town square, office buildings, apartment complexes and just about everything else you would find in a town
- Mock A300 and 737 sized aircraft, both with fully outfitted cabins, including targets that stand up out of their seats. There is also a simulated airport tower, tarmac and terminal area
- Driving track for offensive and defensive driving and VVIP mobile protection training
- Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training and applications range
- Centralised and integrated range operations centre to monitor and control all audio, video, special effects and target technology
- Instructor cadre with backgrounds in special operations from around the globe
- 350 networked day/night thermal cameras with 360° coverage to capture exercises for after action reviews
- A helicopter pad capable of staging multiple helicopters at once
- Dining, recreation, lodging, gym and pro shop facilities for hundreds of operators
- Special effects, such as: Rooftop explosions; concussion wave cannon; automatic weapons simulator; simulated smells; fog generator; and improvised explosive device (IED) simulation kits
Historically KASOTC was the project of Jordan's King Abdullah II, a graduate of Britain's Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and the former commander of Jordan's Special Forces. The king recognised the importance of special operations and counter terrorism in the 21st century, particularly in the Middle East, and wanted Jordan to be a leader in these types of response.
The centre has two full-sized aircraft for counter terrorist training (image: KASOTC)
Jordanian military units come to KASOTC to train individually and with Jordanian special forces, but teams of operators from around the globe, including from places not usually known for joint training with western nations – such as China – come to test their skills among other nation's special forces teams. One such event held yearly at KASOTC is more notorious than any other and is simply called the "Annual Warrior Competition”.
The KASOTC Training and Development Section is keen to highlight that while the centre is primarily seen as a military training location, civilian organisations are increasingly using the facility for safety and security style training.
Instinctively I felt that limiting this centre to purely a military role was undermining its value and, most importantly, missing its potential to ensure wider audiences gain from its valuable experience and state-of-the-art facilities.
This is something the KASOTC Team is developing further and it is constantly looking at ways to improve services and offerings to global clients, whether civilian and military, and working with them to provide the best support to their training programmes.
In a constantly challenging world where safety and security skills are needed more than ever, the KASOTC staff are more than qualified to deliver a first-class training environment and courses.
The airport is not only designed for special forces training – it also has potential for training civil organisations
I am now assisting the KASOTC Training and Development Section in progressing further training opportunities and markets to exploit this centre of excellence. Should organisations have genuine interest or queries they are welcome to contact me for further information.
So, going back to my question at the start of this blog – is KASOTC is a good or bad training venue that I or colleagues in my field of work would choose or benefit from?
From my own experience it is an excellent training venue. It is located close enough to the airport for timely transfers, with good sized and equipped classrooms, accommodation, catering and recreational facilities.
But for me, most importantly, it is the friendly, professional and experienced staff who make the overall experience just that bit more special and personal.
My lasting memory is of being greeted each morning by the same member of staff, decked out in a red KASOTC polo shirt, khaki trousers and, as if by magic, a very black sludge-like coffee is politely delivered into my hand. Either they are determined to look after ,me or perhaps I just look like I need it – or both. Either way it’s a memory that sticks and makes me miss the place and the people.
Thank you to all the staff at KASOTC for their professionalism, hospitality and their support and contribution to this blog.
Robert McAlister will be looking at counter terror training at KASOTC in the next edition of the Crisis Response Journal, published in November 2018