By Will Grant
At the bottom of an abandoned quarry in the Jordanian desert lies one of the premiere training facilities in the world. It’s called the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center, and it’s the brainchild of His Majesty, King Abdullah II. And when you consider the technology involved, the scale of the facility, and the comforts it provides, you might wonder if royalty isn’t somehow involved. It’s world-class all the way.
“You walk two minutes out of your room and you’re at the chow hall,” says Charles “CK” Redlinger, who was part of the original team at KASOTC. “Another two minutes and you’re at the armory. Two minutes passed that and you’re at one of the ranges. It’s all there, in one place.”
It’s also open to the public—through certain avenues. As of this February, customers can book a five-day tactical
adventure week at the $200 million facility, which is outside Amman Jordan, through MissionX, a new company made up of several former KASOTC staffers. A tactical adventure week is just what it sounds like:, breeching doors, engaging targets at 1,300 meters with a sniper rifle, shooting from a tower. It’s like being in a “very authentic” action movie. After-action debriefings, fitness evaluations, a social event at the end in an upscale resort overlooking the Dead Sea.
While KASTOC is a training facility for military and law enforcement personnel, MissionX is careful to say that it does not train civilians during the tactical adventures. It familiarizes them with the weapons and puts them through a simulated, highly orchestrated mission scenario to get their adrenaline pumping. But when it comes to the tactics, MissionX doesn’t, as Redlinger says, let “the proverbial cat out of the bag.”
But it’s not cheap; a five-night package starts at $19,775 USD, or £12,500 GBP. You get what you pay for, and for nearly $20,000 you get a truly one-of-a-kind experience. There’s no other place like it in the world open to the public.
From February 16 to 20, the first wave of civilian clients will surrender themselves to the life of a Special Operations soldier. Not surprisingly, MissionX started offering civilian packages after urging from friends and relatives “who were enthralled by our description of the facility,” according to Redlinger. Not hard to see why.
State-of-the-art is a fitting phrase for KASOTC. It’s a 1,200-acre classroom (or playground) with the largest “mock city in existence,” several firearms ranges, a method-of-entry complex, a static Airbus 300, a five-story CQB shoothouse, and a driving track, among other amenities. But part of what sets KASOTC apart is the integrated technology. Three hundred fifty cameras allow for complete recording of all training. Embedded microphones wire sound to the Range Operations Control center. There are concussion-wave cannons, rooftop explosions with debris, fog machines, “smells of war” simulators, and other effects to ensure a “fog of war” experience, says Redlinger.
The formation and building of KASOTC was a collaborative effort, with management of the project overseen by the King Abdulla II Design and Development Bureau—which is an independent developmental agency within the Jordanian Armed Forces—and the US Special Operations Command Central.
Redlinger, who is now president of MissionX, was part of the KASOTC team when the facility opened for business in 2009. He left KASOTC last year to head MissionX, and a lot of the staff followed, which in turn opened up access to a wealth of expertise many would likely not otherwise see.
Craig “Sawman” Sawyer is on staff. Two combat-wounded veterans (one is a amputee and the other has a paralyzed
arm) who set a world record for walking unsupported to the geographic North Pole are on staff. Co-founder Harry Taylor, a former SAS soldier, is an IFMGA-certified high-alpine guide, a BASE jumper, and has been a technical advisor to films like Touching the Void. Aside from outstanding military careers (DEVGRU, Delta Force, etc.), the staff is well-heeled in many facets outside governmental duties.
The tactical adventures are new this February, but MissionX has been offering what it calls Leadership and Development Programs since last year with its London-based partner Fieri. The programs cater to corporations, usually wanting to send a batch of executives on a retreat to improve decision making, communication, or any one of a number of corporate skills that can, not surprisingly, be honed through a simulated battlefield-type experience.
“We take a number of execs out of their environment and put them in our environment,” Redlinger says. “When we do that, it tends to draw out certain things in them—characteristics in people.”
THE ANNUAL WARRIOR COMPETITION
The highlight of the year at KASOTC is the Annual Warrior Competition, hosted by KASOTC and the Jordan Armed Forces. This year will be the event’s fifth year and will be held March 23 – 28, 2o13.
“It’s a friendly, combat-oriented competition that tests endurance, teamwork, marksmanship and completing tasks under pressure,” Redlinger says. “A big part of it is also the networking aspect. That’s one of the main spirits of it, the networking.”
Last year 32 teams competed, representing 18 countries. There is still space available for teams to compete this year. There are a total of 12 events, and two night events have been added this year. There will also be no individual events this year. For the first event, in 2009, Redlinger and the staff spent a month organizing the competition. It has grown significantly. These days it requires much more than a month’s planning, and attracts dignitaries, ambassadors, and a range of international vendors, like 5.11 Tactical, Steyr Mannlicher, Aimpoint, and Kriss Arms.
The teams were mostly military units in the beginning. But it’s now expanded to include law enforcement teams as well, like a SWAT Team from California that competed last year. There was even interest from Sig Sauer for fielding a corporate team, which hasn’t yet happened. The competition’s growth, at least for now, is limited to 35 teams.
For entered teams, there is no entry fee for the competition. Sponsors end up covering most of the cost of hosting the event. And the event itself is advertising for the facility.
The deadline for entry in this year’s competition is February 24, and the ranks are quickly filling. If your department or unit can muster the time and budget, the Annual Warrior Competition is sure to be an experience you won’t soon forget.
“The awards ceremony at the end was held in an old Roman amphitheater,” says Redlinger, who organized he first four years of the event. “It was kind of cool to have all these warriors in this amphitheater-like structure.”
All images courtesy Charles Redlinger unless otherwise noted.