by Sgt. Mike MacLeod
[1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs]
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Partnership is not an event but a process. Yudh Abhyas, the annual bilateral soldier training between India and the United States began its ninth year May 3, held for the first time here at the home of the U.S. Army Airborne.
Yudh Abhyas literally means “training for war” in Hindi. In military language, it is a theater security cooperation exercise between the Indian Army and United States Army Pacific, executed this year by the XVIII Airborne Corps’ 82nd Airborne Division.
Practically speaking, it is an open exchange of knowledge and operating procedures between key regional partners - the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy - through field and command post exercises.
Additionally, the training will include expert academic exchanges on logistics, engineering, information operations and CRBNE (chemical, radiological, biological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives).
Last year, the USARPAC-sponsored exercise brought together the Hawaii-based 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division with the Indian Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, at Majahan and Bathinda, India.
For armies involved in many of the same types of combat, counterinsurgency and peacekeeping roles, what the armies are exchanging during Yudh Abhyas has great implications, according to Indian Army Col. Prashant Kandpal, commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Gurkha Rifles, who visiting Fort Bragg.
The Gurkhas are mostly Nepalese infantrymen known for the long, forward-curving knives they carry and their fearlessness in combat. The 5th Gurkha Rifles are part of the combat-hardened 99th Mountain Brigade.
“Tactics are ever changing,” said Kandpal, who is in his 19th year of military service. “Every day brings something new.”
With the unprecedented means for the enemies of peace and freedom to share tactics, it is imperative that the U.S. and India share with each other what they have learned, he said.
“We have different tactics: theirs are shaped by their experiences in Jammu and Kashmir and ours by our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Kandpal’s exercise counterpart, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Phillip Sounia.
Sounia commands the hosting unit at Fort Bragg, the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, which is the reconnaissance element for the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team.
A cavalry squadron is the organizational equivalent of an infantry battalion.
“[In the field training] we are seeing a lot of detailed work from the Gurkhas, which is something we are rebuilding at our team level,” said Sounia.
While the U.S. Army might be better equipped at the individual level, the Indian Army tends to keep individual warfighting knowledge longer because the initial term of service in the Indian Army is 15 years, he said.
“The Gurkhas are a phenomenal unit,” said Sounia. “The Indian Army officers are incredible officers that any army in the world would be proud to have.”
Bilateral training between professional armies is useful at all levels of soldiering, but for young leaders, it is invaluable, said Indian Army Maj. Prashant Mishra, a company commander and eight-year veteran.
“Tasks on the ground are accomplished by the young leadership. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to empower them,” said Prashant during a day of sharing the science and craft of platoon-level patrols in the forests of western Fort Bragg with a troop of cavalry paratroopers.
This year’s Yudh Abhyas will culminate in a complex United Nations -type exercise set. Indian paratroopers with the 50 Independent Para Brigade accompanying the Gurkhas will jump into the objective with American paratroopers. The Gurkhas will arrive by helicopter. Artillery, mortars and other heavy weapons will play roles in the script.
From conception to execution, the operation will be the product of both armies, with the focus on improving the ability of both forces to respond to a wide range of contingencies, said Sounia.
Kandpal and Sounia were very pleased with the level of cooperation between their soldiers, they said.
“India and the United States are global partners with global responsibilities, and when contingencies emerge, we can only operate at the speed of trust,” said Sounia. “We are building that trust right here, right now, with two of the most competent and experienced armies in the world.”
Sounia said there is always a transition period when new units meet, but as soon as his paratroopers saw the Gurkhas in action and vice versa, the level of respect was evident.
“Our men see each other as peers because that is what they are,” he said.
Sounia said he believes that soldiers of free countries are able to operate independently within the commander’s intent because of what they have in common regardless of rank: they all willingly agreed to take on the responsibility of their nation and to move forward with that mission whatever the cost. Freedom engenders both mutual respect and advancement by merit, he said.
“Freedom is the force multiplier,” he said.
Yudh Abhyas 2013 will conclude May 17.