CENTCOM Troops 'Living Large' in Internal Look Exercise
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2002 Troops from the U.S. Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Fla., may be in the tiny Persian Gulf nation of Qatar for only a few weeks, but they say they're "living large" while they're there.
About 1,000 headquarters staff members are in Qatar this month for Exercise Internal Look. The computer-based and - assisted exercise is designed to test how well CENTCOM can run operations from a forward-deployed location.
"What this exercise is going to do is test and exercise our ability to communicate on the modern battlefield," a senior CENTCOM official in Tampa said Dec. 4. Internal Look will not involve combat forces.
CENTCOM officials in Tampa and Qatar arranged a conference call with reporters in the Pentagon and other places to answer questions. Exercise dates are still being set. The official in Tampa called it a "rolling exercise," and said the actual exercise would likely kick off about Dec. 6 and run 10 or 11 days.
A main focus of the exercise is to test the command's newly built deployable headquarters, set up in As Sayliyah, Qatar. The deployable facility consists of climate- controlled modular shelters equipped with cutting-edge technology that allows staff officers to "compete on the modern battlefield," the official in Tampa said.
The equipment includes advanced computer connectivity and video-teleconferencing technology. CENTCOM Commander Gen. Tommy Franks could do in Qatar virtually anything he does in Tampa, the official said.
A CENTCOM official deployed to Qatar said troops there are happy with their working conditions in the deployable headquarters. "From a human perspective, the shelters are very conducive to doing the work that we need to do out here," the official in Qatar said.
Deployed staff live in two-man climate-controlled "containers" and air-conditioned tents. "I can honestly tell you the quality of life for the folks who are participating in the exercise is very good and has allowed us to be very functional," the Qatar official said.
"For an Army guy, that's pretty good living," the official joked. "Maybe the Air Force (doesn't like it so much), but for an Army guy, we're living pretty large out here."
News reports have speculated the exercise is a cover to set up a headquarters in the Gulf before military action against Iraq, but military officials stressed the need to test the new facility and the headquarters' ability to communicate throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility, which includes Afghanistan as well as the Persian Gulf region.
Officials noted Exercise Internal Look has been held before, in 1990, 1996 and 2000. This is the first time it has been held outside the United States. Changing technology requires the command to keep testing its abilities, the Tampa official said.
Some contingencies the exercise will test involve Iraq, "but that is not the only consideration," the official said.