By Army Capt. Marshall Howell, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
PUSLATPUR, Indonesia -- With well-rehearsed precision, Indiana Army National Guardsmen from the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team held a joint ceremony here July 30 with their Indonesian army counterparts to mark the opening of the twelfth iteration of Exercise Garuda Shield, a bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific.
Garuda Shield 18 is the third exercise in USARPAC’s second iteration of Pacific Pathways, a series of multinational engagements with ally and partner militaries in the Indo-Pacific region. This year also marks the first time an Army National Guard unit is participating in the series as the lead training element that will conduct a joint staff exercise with the Indonesian army.
“The opening ceremony really highlighted the importance of the bilateral training experiences that we are having as the U.S. Army with many of our coalition, NATO and allied partners around the world,” said Army Col. Robert D. Burke, commander of the 76th IBCT. “The camaraderie, the esprit de corps and just the vibrancy that we had in the opening ceremony really highlighted how great these next two weeks will be as we work through this staff exercise together.”
Exercises such as Garuda Shield contribute to peacekeeping capability in the Indo-Pacific region, which in turn fosters interoperability and competency with partner nations that strengthen the Army’s capabilities to respond to a crisis situation.
State Partnership Program
Indonesian army Maj. Gen. Marga Taufiq, the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division, also welcomed the Hawaii National Guard Adjutant General, Army Maj. Gen. Arthur J. Logan, as his co-host of the opening ceremony while emphasizing the shared respect between the partner armies.
“The Hawaii National Guard has had a state partnership with Indonesia since 2007 when we began with subject matter exchanges and exercises such as Garuda Shield, as well as senior leader visits,” Logan said. “Participating in these numerous bilateral exercises allows the United States to focus on building capacity and relationships, thereby enhancing the sovereignty of Indonesia and security in this region.”
“I’m positive that the staff exercise between the [Indonesian army’s] 9th Brigade and the 76th IBCT, focusing on the military decision-making process, will only enhance capacity building and relationships, and more importantly will encourage joint participation with the senior and junior officers, and noncommissioned officers, working together,” he said.
Burke agreed on the importance of the relationships being established between the two staffs participating in the exercise along with Army support personnel from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and Okinawa, Japan.
“To have Maj. Gen. Logan as a part of this, representing the Hawaii National Guard and their state partnership program that they have with Indonesia, is really going to solidify that lasting, long-term relationship that we are going to have for many years to come as the U.S. Army, and have a National Guard flavor to that relationship, in a country that is truly a partner to the security of this region of the world,” he said.
Following the ceremony, the combined units showed their enthusiasm for working together by conducting a “Yel-Yel,” a cry-and-response war dance similar to a Maori haka, to kick off the training.
“It really set the tone for what we are looking forward to doing over the next few weeks and demonstrated the willingness of their soldiers and ours to embrace the environment we are in together and the cooperativeness that we are going to experience together as we both share and learn things that we each do well in our armies,” said 76th IBCT Army Command Sgt. Maj. Steven J. Bishop.
“We both share in our hearts similar things as professionals in the profession of arms, and, in that, we speak a common language that quickly tears down the barriers and walls that you see when you incorporate two different people and two different nations together in this type of exercise,” he said.