BANDUNG, Indonesia - Approximately 1,000 Soldiers and Marines from nine countries gathered at the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Ankatan Darat, or Indonesian Army, infantry center to mark the official opening of Exercise Garuda Shield 2009, in Bandung, Indonesia, June 16.

The annual Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative exercise will emphasize "training to improve the operational capacity of UN peacekeeping, according to United Nations standard," TNI-AD Gen. Djoko Santoso, TNI chief and Indonesian co-exercise director, said in his opening remarks.

Garuda Shield is normally a bi-lateral exercise co-hosted by the US and Indonesia; but this iteration is the GPOI capstone event for the Asia-Pacific area. It is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. Training will focus on peace support operations and GPOI certification, a Command Post Exercise, a Field Training exercise and Humanitarian and Civic Assistance projects.

"It is normal for GPOI to take an existing exercise and make it a capstone event," said Robert Sweeney, U.S. Pacific Command Global Peace Operations Initiative project manager for the Asian Pacific region.

The exercise will focus on training all the countries involved on UN practices and policies.

"In an effort to protect and preserve world peace," Santoso said, "countries contribute troops, under a UN mission, to various parts of the world."

The theme of Santoso's speech was the continuing effort to stop the terrorist threats worldwide and using the GPOI training and knowledge to achieve that mission as well as the ability of the nations present to work together to achieve that common goal.

Indonesia has taken on an increasing role in UN missions, most recently sending troops to Lebanon.

"Indonesia has taken a lead role in supporting peacekeeping worldwide," said Maj. Gen. Vernon Miyagi, Garuda Shield 09 U.S. co- exercise director. "They have made remarkable progress over the last decade."

During the two week field exercise, Soldiers and Marines from Bangledesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Republic of Tongo Thailand and the United States will train on various UN-mandated ground-level tasks.

Even though the ceremony marked the exercise's official opening, officers from 19 other nations participated in three days of academic training and a computer-simulated CPX is currently ongoing, and construction on two HCA projects are also underway.