CAMP MURRAY, Wash. -- With the goal of finalizing plans for multiple bi-national exercises, the Washington National Guard wrapped up the final planning conference for exercise Bersama Warrior and Keris Strike 2019 on Dec. 6 in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia.

The Washington National Guard routinely takes part in multiple exercises throughout the year to engage Soldiers and Airmen in quality training and prepare them for potential federal call-ups. In March 2019, Guard members will participate in two unique exercises that will challenge them both mentally and physically.

Bersama Warrior is an annual Malaysia Armed Forces-United State Military bilateral exercise designed to advance interoperability and build capacity to plan and conduct joint operations.

"We are focused on strengthening our strategic relationship with our State Partnership teammates in Malaysia as well as building cohesion and familiarization," said Brig. Gen. Jeremy Horn, commander, Washington Air National Guard and deputy commander for the exercise. "We really hope to develop capacity to respond quickly to a crisis with greater interoperability, mission effectiveness and unity of forces."

More than 60 Washington National Guard members will join their Malaysian counterparts at Bersama Warrior 2019, focusing on a number of topics including air-to-ground operations, reconnaissance and civil security.

"The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team will have a large piece of this exercise as we team with the 11th Brigade of the Malaysian Armed Forces," said Col. Shaughnessy Hodge, commander, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "Our staffs will work together to develop common operating procedures and share best lessons learned."

While Bersama Warrior is taking place in Kuala Lumpar, just a few miles away at Buloh Camp, more than 40 Washington National Guard personnel will be participating in Keris Strike 19, a detailed subject matter expert exchange between U.S. Army members and the units from the Malaysian army.

"During the month of March, there will be two main efforts, Bersama Warrior and Keris Strike; they are run at the same time, but two completely different exercises," said Thanh Wallace, exercise planner, United States Army Pacific Command. "All the events we are doing this year are gearing us up for the larger exercise in 2020."

Keris Strike will mainly focus on subject matter expert exchanges or SMEEs focusing on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear operations, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Information Operations, Public Affairs, Medical and Special Operations.

"We may have a smaller group this year than we did last year during Keris Strike, but we will be highly effective," said Lt. Col. Sebastian Andres, director, State Partnership Program, Washington National Guard. "In 2020, more than 800 personnel will be on the ground here for Keris Strike so this allows us to build up for next year."

Since signing a formal State Partnership Program agreement with the Malaysian Armed Forces in August 2017, the Washington National Guard has increased its participation with the Southeast Asian country. In September, leaders from Malaysia came to Washington to build a multi-year plan that would highlight training opportunities with the Guard and Washington Emergency Management.

"We want to not only build stronger partnerships, military to military, but expand civilian partnerships as well," said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general. "Part of the long-term success will include emergency management."