LAPANGAN TERBAND CAMP, Malaysia -- Members of the U.S. and Malaysian armies gathered together to begin Exercise Keris Strike 13 with a ceremony at Lapangan Terbang Camp, Sungai Petani, Kedah, Malaysia the morning of Sept. 17.

Maj. Gen. Dato Mohd Shukuri bin Ahmad, the General Officer Commanding of the Malaysian Army 2nd Infantry Division, hosted Brig. Gen. Pete Johnson, the 25th Infantry Division Deputy Commanding General -- Operations, and Col. Thomas Mackey, the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Commander and U.S. deputy co-director the exercise, as part of the ceremony.

Keris Strike is a U.S. Army Pacific-sponsored Theater Security Cooperation Program exercise conducted annually with the Malaysian Armed Forces. This year marks the 17th time the two countries have partnered for this exercise. The main purpose of Keris Strike is to strengthen the military-to-military ties between the U.S. and Malaysian Armed Forces while conducting Peace Support Operations and Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, as well as Medical First Responder and Counter-IED training.

"This exercise is the manifestation and expression of our intimate military ties and cooperation," said Shukuri during his opening remarks. "It is also an avenue to further strengthen the existing relationship between the troops from the United States Army and the Malaysian Army Field Command that we have enjoyed over these years."

This year is the first time in more than ten years that U.S. active duty Soldiers have had a major role in Keris Strike. Because of the end of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn and the drawing down of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, U.S. forces in the Pacific are able to refocus and bring an active duty perspective to the event.

"It is very important for our Army to understand the Pacific area, in particular the very strategic area that Malaysia sits in," said Johnson. "So we come here with open thoughts about learning what we can about the setting, the populations, the people, the culture, the history, and understand, that should we be called to come together with the Malaysian army, we could operate together very effectively."

The 25th Infantry Division and its 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team are taking the lead for the U.S. forces, and are being supported by the 9th Mission Support Command, Pacific Army Reserve and the 56th Theater Intelligence Operations Group of the Washington Army National Guard. The Malaysian Army 2nd Infantry Division is hosting the exercise.