SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For U.S. soldiers who traveled to India for
exercise Yudh Abhyas 2014, many of the things they saw and
experienced might have seemed unusual or exotic.
a common sight running over rooftops or swinging from low-hanging
branches and telephone lines. Docile cows sauntered into training
areas and through the crowded Ranikhet market where soldiers shopped
after the training day was done. Soldiers were briefed to keep an
eye out for man-eating leopards before running on mountain roads.
They got the chance to attend a religious ceremony bursting with
color and sound during the Hindu festival of Navratri. And when the
clouds cleared as they traveled to and from their training sites,
they marveled at the jagged outline of the Himalayas.
California National Guard soldiers pose
with their Indian hosts in front of their chow hall on Ranikhet
Cantonment, India on September 20, 2014.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jason Sweeney)
“Yudh Abhyas 2014 was not only a successful way to bring
both the U.S. and Indian armies together and learn U.N.
peacekeeping mission strategies, but also a rare opportunity
for soldiers to experience Indian culture, which exuberates
with color, food, music and incomparable hospitality,” said
Sgt. Jasleen Khaira, an Indian-American California Army
National Guard soldier who took part in the exercise.
Yudh Abhyas is an annual, bilateral exercise between
U.S. Army Pacific Command and the Indian Army. The exercise
provides combined training for the two armies that focuses
on low-intensity, counter-insurgent actions, such as raids,
civic assistance missions and quick reaction team missions.
This year, the exercise took place Sept. 17-30 in the Indian
state of Uttarakhand at Ranikhet Cantonment in the foothills
of the Himalayas. The exercise involved a scenario in which
soldiers from the U.S. and Indian armies integrated into a
combined brigade tasked to conduct security and
stabilization operations for a U.N. peacekeeping mission in
About 190 U.S. soldiers hailing from the 1st
Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division; the 3rd
Battalion, 1st Group, U.S. Army Special Forces; and the
California Army National Guard took part in the exercise.
The Indian contingent this year was from the Indian
Army's 99th Mountain Brigade and the 9th Gorkha Rifles.
India has been a leading contributor to U.N.
peacekeeping missions for more than 50 years. Many of the
Indian soldiers at Yudh Abhyas 2014 had direct experience in
peacekeeping missions in such places as the Democratic
Republic of Congo, Haiti and Lebanon.
individual level, I was the beneficiary of their rich
knowledge and background in peacekeeping operations,” Cal
Guard Maj. Keith Haviland said. “We all shared a genuine
interest in learning about each other, our cultures and what
makes each one of us tick. The soldiers of the Gorkha
Regiment will forever have my deep respect."
part of the exercise each year involves cultural exchanges
meant to help build relationships and interoperability
between the two armies. This year, U.S. soldiers got the
chance travel to the resort Himalayan lake city of Nainital
where they spent the day sightseeing and shopping in
marketplaces. They also attended social events at night
where Indian soldiers performed plays, played music and
demonstrated traditional combat techniques. And they were
treated to Indian food.
“We came here and I think we
both had preconceived notions of each other,” said
California Army National Guard Lt. Col. Greg Arenas. “I
expected elephants, snake charmers, dark eyes—the way India
is portrayed in movies like ‘Indiana Jones.' The Indians
might have thought that we were arrogant Americans—cowboys
also portrayed in the movies. Over the course of two weeks,
we both learned that the stereotypes were dead wrong. In
fact, we have as many or more similarities than
India and the United States are the
world's two largest democracies. Both countries are diverse
in geography and cultures. And both are former colonies of
the British Empire.
As India rises in economic and
military power, its cultural, economic and military ties to
the United States have been growing.
“Every time I
work with the Indian Army, I am struck by the
professionalism and expertise of their soldiers and
officers,” Cal Guard Lt. Col. Kenneth Koop said. “I feel
that the developing partnership between India and the United
States will become an enduring force for peace and stability
in the 21st century.”
By U.S. Army Capt. Jason Sweeney
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