By Staff Sgt. Justin A. NaylorAugust 5, 2013
AMOY QUEE CAMP, Singapore - Members of the Singapore Armed Forces and U.S. Army soldiers joined together to celebrate the end of Exercise Lightning Strike during a ceremony here July 26.
Exercise Lightning Strike, which began July 15, was a combined Singapore and U.S. training exercise that partnered C Company, Singapore Infantry Regiment, with a platoon of Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
"I'm proud to have been part of this Lightning Strike journey," said Lt. Col. Woo Sin Boon, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn., SIR.
This year was the sixth time the two forces partnered for the exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific, but only the second to occur in Singapore. The exercise culminated into a 4-day mock mission where Singaporean and U.S. Soldiers cleared a simulated enemy stronghold in a mountainous training area.
"I saw a blurring of lines between the U.S. and Singapore armies," Boon said. "If not for the different uniforms we wear, I could have mistaken U.S. Soldiers for ours."
At the end of the field event, the participants received a distinct patch that combined graphic elements of the 2nd Bn., SIR, and 4-23 Inf. unit patches - an enduring symbol of partnership.
"The Lightning Strike patch represents not just two weeks of training but the long lasting ties we anticipate going forward between these two armies," Boon said.
For the SAF and U.S. Soldiers on the ground, the exercise was more than just training on military techniques, but a chance to absorb one another's culture.
"Something I will remember forever, is the combined arms exercise we did together," said U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Bateman, a Phoenix native and team leader with B Co., 4-23 Inf. "Just being able to work in a partnership with them and accomplish a mission. There is so much of a difference in our tactics and the way we communicate, but we still worked together. It was really inspiring."
"It was a culture shock when I got here," Bateman said. "I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. Then after interacting those first couple days with their army, everyone seemed to have really open arms and were really welcoming. I wasn't an outsider, I was a visitor."
Although the weeks of training went by fast, there was plenty of time to make lasting connections between the two forces.
"I made some good friends over here, ones I'll keep in touch with for years to come," Bateman said.
During the first week of the exercise, Singapore Army 1st Sgt. Md Faris Bin Md Dawood showed Bateman and his squad members a side of Singapore they may never have seen otherwise.
"He took us to his hometown and his favorite restaurant," Bateman said. "I was able to go to this home-style restaurant and experience how they cook and their food and how they live day-to-day. It was a really good experience."
Bateman will return the favor in a few months when Farris comes to the U.S. for a visit of his own.
"He's coming to Washington in the spring," Bateman said. "We're going to get together as a squad and take him out and show him our culture."
Although the exercise is over, connections forged between the two forces, like that between Bateman and Farris, will not fade anytime soon.