Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan. Read all her reporting here
By Barbara Starr
On top of a desert mountain military post 20 minutes outside the Jordanian capitol of Amman, we are silently greeted by soldiers clad fully in black, heads and faces masked by balaclavas, carrying assault rifles.
There is no enemy here. But for Jordan's 71st Counter Terrorism Battalion, it does not matter. They pride themselves on being one of the premier special operations units among U.S. allies in the Middle East, and so every day, even on their home base, they are ready to fight.
The battalion is taking part in Eager Lion, a massive international military exercise being staged in Jordan and involving some 12,000 troops from 19 nations.
Lt. Col. Raad Amairah, the commander, tells us these days his men are prepared to fight potential attackers inside Jordan and to deploy to other countries as well, if needed. Jordanian counter terrorism units such as the 71st have made repeated deployments to Afghanistan, for example.
But with the potential for trouble brewing on Jordan's northern border with Syria, Amairah says his troops know it could affect them.
"Of course we worry because the situation gets worse and worse every day," he says.
The lieutenant colonel won't discuss specifics when it comes to Syria, but separately Security Clearance has learned that Jordan has already arrested suspected Syrian intelligence agents coming across the border as part of the refugee exodus in recent months, and deported them back to Syria.
Jordanian government sources directly familiar with what has happened believe the Syrians are trying to step up their intelligence gathering inside Jordan in an attempt to see what the kingdom may be prepared to do if even low-level conflict breaks out.
That's the type of conflict the battalion is training for it, if it happens. As part of Eager Lion, as well as their regular training, the troops practice for sniper operations, precision shooting at all distances, and assaulting compounds.
By training with U.S. special operations forces, as well as other nations here for Eager Lion, they gain the additional benefit of training just as they would fight in the field, as a coalition force.
The commander remains unflappable, telling us the growing threats don't bother him or his men.
"It gives us more guts and courage on a daily basis," he says.