US Army Prior Planning is Essential to Bring Disaster Relief to Indonesia
June 9, 2013
- Gema Bhakti is only one event of several included in Garuda Shield 2013, a regularly-scheduled, bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army, Pacific and hosted annually by the Indonesian Armed Forces.
- Indonesia and the United States routinely conduct joint disaster relief exercises with the same or similar goals.
SENTUL Indonesia -- If knowledge is power, Indonesia and the United States stockpiled it at Gema Bhakti, a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise held at the International Peace and Security Center here from June 6-10, 2013.
About 90 members of both nations' militaries, government and non-governmental agencies met to learn about their respective command relationships and roles in the event of a disaster, according to United States Air Force Maj. Walter Winter, one of the exercise planners. This is the first time they've held a Joint Chief of Staff table top exercise, and it's designed to improve the nations' ability to respond to disasters in Indonesia, promote cultural awareness, facilitate collective training and enhance their military relationship, said Winter, of Honolulu.
Indonesia and the United States routinely conduct joint disaster relief exercises with the same or similar goals, like the annual Pacific Resilience Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange held at the peace and security center June 3 - 6. "Gema Bhakti" is an Indonesian phrase which means "echo of good deeds."
Gema Bhakti involves higher operational and strategic level response, and is based on an earthquake and tsunami scenario, Winter explained. The Indonesians are no strangers to disaster, noted Winter, alluding to the devastating earthquakes and tsunamis that hit the island nation in 2004 and 2009.
"Obviously their military is very capable," he said. "They're very well-versed in disaster response. It's nothing new to them."
Authority over ports and airspace during a disaster are just some of the issues which Gema Bhakti is designed to address, Winter said. The exercise included daily briefings, and exercise participants relied on interpreters to overcome the language barrier, he added.
By learning the Indonesian forces' capabilities, the United States can better understand how to assist them during a disaster, said Lt. Commander Sam Durbin, a United States Navy civil engineer officer. His role in the exercise was to act as a planner for U.S. Navy engineering and logistical capabilities, he explained, and to learn about their Indonesian counterparts.
"They're educating us on how they operate," said Durbin, of Minneapolis, Minn. "I'm here to make friends and support them. In the event something bad happens, we'll be there to support our friends."
Durbin belongs to the Naval Facilities Contingency Engineer Unit. Based in Washington, D.C., the unit performs a range of tasks world-wide, from combat missions to humanitarian relief operations, he explained.
Along with the ability to rapidly repair roads, runways and bridges, the unit can repair and run port facilities -- an integral piece of disaster relief, Durbin said.
"You need supplies," he explained bluntly. "Aid has to arrive."
"The Indonesians are great hosts," Winter said. "The facilities here are top-notch, and I think this is going to be the first of many Gema Bhakti exercises to come."
Durbin described the Indonesians as gracious and receptive.
"This was the opportunity of a lifetime, to come here and be part of this, and be on the ground floor of a yearly exercise," Durbin said.
Gema Bhakti is only one event of several included in Garuda Shield 2013, a regularly-scheduled, bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army, Pacific and hosted annually by the Indonesian Armed Forces.
Garuda Shield 13 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to strengthen military-to-military cooperation while focusing on international peace support operations, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gary M. Hara, Deputy Commander for the Army National Guard , U.S. Army Pacific and exercise co-director.
The exercise includes a field training exercise focusing on rescue operations and will include roughly 200 American and 300 Indonesia paratroopers participating in field training, performing fundamental infantry skills and airborne operations.
This marks the seventh iteration of this bilateral exercise that takes place in and around Cilodong, Depok Indonesia from 10-21 June 2013, although this is the first time, the 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia will make a series of combined jumps using both TNI and U.S. aircraft.