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KASOTC: A Gathering of Warriors

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Special Operations Teams Compete for the Glory in Yajouz, Jordan

Every year, in the heart of the rocky desert of the northern Arabian Peninsula, warriors of many cultures gather to put their skills to the test in competitive feats of expertise, to leave the arena the victor and leave their opponents in the dust. This annual assembly of the world’s warriors is more than a gathering — much more akin to a congregation of souls sharing a deep calling not well understood by those who haven’t spent their lives in pursuit of the warrior’s path.

Each of the last 11 years, in the rugged historic land of Jordan, precariously nestled between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, a one-of-a-kind event has been held where warriors from many, often adversarial, lands gather, leaving their differences at home and putting their skills to the test against each other. Held at the impressive and sophisticated state-of-the-art King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center, or KASOTC, just outside of Amman. At the Warrior Competition, military and law enforcement special operations teams from across the globe face off on a level playing field in a grueling marathon of trials, testing their leadership, endurance, physical strength, marksmanship, and specialized skills.

The extraordinary 600-plus-acre KASOTC facility, located outside Amman in Yajouz, Jordan, houses every conceivable training tool, range, and prop available to special operations organizations. Live-fire cities, interactive long-distance ranges, driving pads, airfields, drop zones, multi-level live-fire CQB shoot houses, and breaching ranges are managed and maintained by a full-time professional staff. KASOTC leaves little to wish for and was created as a dedicated training center by King Abdullah, himself a legendary special operations warrior.

Both KASOTC and the Warrior Competition are unbelievable resources for law enforcement and military special operations teams seeking to take their training to the next level.

Many organizations come to train at or find themselves assigned to KASOTC. I first learned of KASOTC during deployments to the Middle East and then again as a waypoint during contractor assignments in and out of Iraq. It’s been amazing to watch KASOTC grow and evolve over the years. Whenever a need is identified, KASOTC creates a training solution. King Abdullah, by all accounts a true warrior-leader, has long recognized the value of both military and law enforcement special operations units, but saw a lack of facilities that were capable of being one-stop shops for their needs. Thus, KASOTC was created to be one of the most comprehensive environments offering the best in training and resources to these forces.

The Warrior Competition, a simple title for a far-from-simple event, is truly an inclusive international competition. It draws elite military and law enforcement teams from across the world. This year, the event was held at KASOTC from April 14 to 20, with 37 competing teams from 26 countries, as well as an additional 14 delegations from 14 countries observing the event. The sole team from the U.S. at the 2019 Warrior Competition was the Tulsa, Oklahoma, Police Department Special Operations Team (SOT).

The opening ceremonies were well represented from special operations teams from around the world.

Although I’m from Arizona, Tulsa PD’s involvement was special to me. While on active duty many years ago, Tulsa was the first of several major agency SWAT programs I was sent to in order to help build similar applications within the Army. It’s an outstanding organization, and while the operators from Tulsa came with the full support of their agency and community, the team worked hard to raise funds to make the long journey to Jordan.

The competition showcases the capabilities of the KASOTC facility and, more importantly, reminds key decision makers of the need for constant, on-going, high-tempo, and challenging training.

Teams from around the world, many open adversaries, stood tall, side-by-side during the warrior competition opening ceremonies.

It’s in the realm of training that KASOTC and the Warrior Competition are of their highest value. With professionals coming from a multitude of nations and organizations with divergent missions, needs, and resources, it doesn’t take long for everyone to be humbled. While it’s a technologically advanced facility, the skills taught, practiced, refined, and tested are hands-on, physical, and at times mentally taxing, where the only available computer to work out solutions is between a man’s ears. Putting all forces on a level playing field provides a unique learning environment for everyone.

When watching various forces from around the world train, compete, and interact, especially those coming from nations with few resources, you quickly realize that we all face the same challenges and share the same concerns. This situation was evident with teams like those from Brunei and Macedonia excelling in this year's competition. While neither of these countries is a slouch in readiness or skills, their on-going warfighting efforts are far less involved than other countries engaged in conflicts around the world. They also both lack the resources of larger organizations; yet in the events, they stepped up and made things happen at impressive levels.

Sure, they could've taken the door, but principal extraction during a hostage rescue exercise at KASOTC is never easy.

The exercises during the annual warrior competition stress teamwork and team involvement at all levels.

What does training look like around the world? Well, it looks a lot like it does in the United States, but with a few differences. First and foremost is the compulsory nature of government service in many countries outside the United States. A great many countries require young men, and sometimes young women as well, to spend a mandatory period in the military or security forces that protect their county. As you can imagine, many get in and can’t wait to get out. This situation makes it challenging to recruit and retain talent into the field of special operations, ultimately making the hiring pool much smaller — but it also makes those who make the cut very special and very proud to be there.

KASOTC is a 600-plus-acre facility made up of a series of live-fire ranges, mock cities, live-fire shoot houses, breaching facilities, and driving pads. It’s one of the most impressive facilities in the world.

Training at KASOTC is dynamic, fluid, and realistic.

The next difference — probably the most significant one — is the constant real-world threat on the very doorstep of these countries. In the U.S., we face real dangers as well, some on faraway soil and others in our backyard, but none like what some other countries face. For most of the Middle East and parts of Europe, the tensions we see have existed for hundreds, even thousands of years. Many are geopolitical, others ideological, but regardless of the root cause they’re all genuine. The problems they create manifest themselves in daily actions around the world.

The 10-story tower at KASOTC is far more than a rappelling tower. It’s used for rescue training with specific floor pick offs and as a very elevated platform for precision shooting into one of KASOTC’s many range facilities.

Endurance, especially in the challenging special operations world, can mean so much more than just running and rucking, including scaling the 10-story KASOTC tower, one hand at a time. This puts both strength and endurance to the test.

As teams competed head-to-head in a series of events, growing in complexity and difficulty, there was much more happening than just competition. There was an open exchange of information and experiences shared from man to man, team to team, country to country. This is probably the single greatest value of bringing so many like-minded people together in a single location. It’s important to understand that while gear and uniforms look similar and the role of special operations is relatively consistent around the world, there are often significant differences in the way teams and individuals face challenges. Sometimes it’s because of ideology, and sometimes it’s driven by financial or resource differences.

The overall winning team from the country of Brunei, celebrating with the respect and jealousy of the rest of the world.

The Warrior Competition is a significant event that offers a rare and real-world opportunity to build rapport and even partnerships on both individual and collective levels, among teams who work hard to protect their countries and sometimes see each other as adversaries. Additionally, through this exchange of information, you could see a level of cooperation and almost fraternal relationships being fostered through the interaction and heavily promoted by the KASOTC staff.

After a grueling week of exhausting non-stop work, the spirits were high during closing ceremonies and banquet. This is the spirit of a warrior.

The county of Jordan is no slouch when it comes to high-end special operations skills and resources, providing a stellar capabilities demonstration during the opening ceremonies. Given Jordan’s geographical location, it has traditionally spearheaded the fight against terrorism in its cradle, both militarily and ideologically. It works diligently in mitigating the reach of terrorism to the world through training and support to good guys around the globe.

I’ve attended three competitions at KASOTC, and each time Jordan’s demonstration is a jaw-dropping exhibition in precision and skill. The 2019 opening ceremony didn’t disappoint, with a combination of military, law enforcement, and security forces demonstrating a dignitary security mission and dynamic hostage rescue operation. The result was a heavily engaged audience and the lasting impact that the Jordanians surely know what they’re doing. Without question, the Jordanians train hard, train right, and train to win!

Closing ceremony and banquet included some traditional Jordanian flavor.

About the Author
Dr. Wes Doss is an internationally recognized firearms, tactics, and use-of-force instructor with over 30 years of military and civilian criminal justice experience. He's the founder, president, and general operating manager of Khyber Interactive Associates LLC and the Annual 1 Inch to 100 Yards Warrior Conference. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice administration and a PhD in psychology. Wes is also a published author of the bestselling books Train to Win and Condition to Win.

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