JAKARTA, Indonesia -- All branches of the U.S. and Indonesian militaries, led by the Hawaii National Guard (HING), are participating in an eight-day joint security cooperation exercise under the State Partnership Program (SPP).

The GEMA BHAKTI 19 (GB19) Staff Exercise (STAFFEX) Sept. 16-23 is a chairman, joint chiefs of staff STAFFEX between U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (and U.S. military service components), and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI, Indonesian Armed Forces) and service components. The exercise is designed to improve joint operational staff planning and processes. It also promotes positive military relations, assuring security and stability in the region and increasing cultural awareness, while enhancing command and control proficiency.

This is the seventh iteration of exercise GEMA BHAKTI -- Indonesian for "Echo of Good Deeds."

"Every year, the Hawaii State Partnership Program looks at next year's GEMA BHAKTI theme and establishes waypoints for that year's engagements with the TNI," said Capt. Marco Hartanto, HING SPP director. "We then build out our plan to ensure the key areas of operations that will be addressed. Additionally, we try to bring our HING members who participated in the smaller engagements leading up to that year's GEMA BHAKTI."

GB19 serves as a culminating event for the HING SPP, which has facilitated 22 international engagements with the TNI in 2019. These engagements include search and extraction, joint fires subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), a cyber range exercise, an air defense SMEE, a pandemic tabletop exercise (TTX), and an operational design seminar. The engagements between the HING and TNI, each one to two weeks long, have been held throughout Indonesia and Hawaii and, in September, in Colorado in conjunction with the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States.

The SPP is a joint Department of Defense security cooperation program, managed and administered by the National Guard Bureau, executed and coordinated by the geographic combatant commands with personnel provided by the National Guard of the partner states. Hawaii National Guard has been partners with Indonesia since 2006, and this is the 70th anniversary of relations between the two nations.

"The relationship between the TNI and the U.S. military is one of professionalism and mutual respect," said Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii deputy adjutant general. "The relationship has grown because of exercises and bilateral engagements such as GEMA BHAKTI and is critical because someday we may deploy together in response to a natural disaster or other contingency."

This year, combined staffs from C1 (personnel) to C9 (civil affairs) responded to a scenario based on real-world events where a fictional country is experiencing instability at its borders and destabilizing neighboring nations.

"From this event we [the TNI and U.S. military] have the opportunity to sit together and share the same perspective as a staff," said Maj. Adek Kurniawan, TNI exercise controller of GB19. "We learn from each other. Indonesia learns from America and America learns from Indonesia. We are perfecting each other. We hope the outcome is that we are unified in our knowledge of how to get to an end-state or goal on this scenario of GB19."

A key aspect of the past few GEMA BHAKTI exercises has been the implementation of the Multi-National Force (MNF) Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The planning improves joint/combined capabilities of maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and counters transnational threats. The exercises increase civilian-military coordination in shared domains (air, land, maritime, space and cyber) during crisis response operations.

"Having all the military branches from both nations' militaries as well as the Hawaii National Guard adds another layer to the planning," said Maj. Issac Floyd, HING officer. "Working with the Marines and the Navy, who have capabilities that I do not have a depth of knowledge in, I get to learn what they have to offer in this kind of operational environment. For instance, what the Marines and Navy provide as far as medical support is massive compared to what the HING could provide in the exercise scenario."

GEMA BHAKTI has evolved throughout its seven iterations, from a simple tabletop exercise to this full combined STAFFEX. The plan is to grow into a Command Post Exercise and, finally, a field training exercise throughout Indonesia.