Reservists host Indian army in exercises


POSTED: Monday, November 10, 2008

A fictitious mid-Pacific continent faces political turmoil and unrest.

The leaders of four key countries are in control but overwhelmed.

Under a United Nations mandate, forces from the United States and India arrive to disarm the militia in the nation of “;Mojave”; and provide security for convoys bringing in humanitarian aid. Soldiers must establish checkpoints, send out patrols and dismantle roadside bombs.

That scenario occupied 48 Hawaii, Alaska and Guam Army reservists last week in a peacekeeping exercise at Fort Shafter. The overarching goal: to develop and expand personal and professional relationships between the U.S. and Indian armies.

During the past four years, the command-post exercise, known as Yudh Abhyas, which in Indian means “;Preparing for War,”; was conducted by 25th Infantry Division soldiers.

But with two of the 25th Division's brigades either in Iraq or on the way, that task fell to Army Reserve. The 9th Mission Support Command handled the yearlong preparation and execution of the computer-simulated U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Playing the role of military peacekeepers were the staffs of the California Army Reserve's 40th Brigade Combat Team and the 49th Brigade from India.

Brigadier Neeraj Bali, who led the 36 staff officers from India, described the exercise, which began on Oct. 24 and ended last week, as “;pretty unique.”;

“;This is the first time we are exercising such a mission at the brigade level,”; he said, “;and the first time we are operating under a U.N. mandate.”;

Bali and his deputy, Army Reserve Col. Kurt Smith, directed the efforts of the U.S. and Indian brigades, whose tactical operations center was established a floor below them at Fort Shafter. There, California brigade officers sat alongside their counterparts from India, trying to resolve the battle-simulation problems tossed to them.

“;We are learning a lot from them,”; said Smith, who in his civilian life works as a construction manager for CH2M Hill—a global engineering and construction company in Idaho. He commutes to Hawaii to fulfill his Army Reserve obligations.

“;And I think they (Indian officers) are learning from us. We also are building friendships that will go on.”;

Seven civilian contractors were hired to play the role of nongovernmental workers from agencies such as the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, which would be involved in any global humanitarian mission.

One of them was Colleen Ruru, who once served as public information officer for the New Zealand army. Her job in this exercise was to generate “;negative”; news reports on what the U.S. and Indian forces are doing.

“;The idea here is to show them the long-term effects of what they are doing and to see how they react to offset them,”; she said.