Two weeks of collaboration and camaraderie between U.S. and Malaysian armed forces during exercise Bersama Warrior 2022 was celebrated with a closing ceremony here presided by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Reginald Neal, deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Pacific and Royal Malaysian Air Force Maj. Gen. Dato’ Hj Md Fauzi b Saleh, assistant chief of staff for the Malaysian Armed Forces Joint Forces Headquarters J-3 on June 17, 2022.
“Over the past 12 days the hard work of the staff during this command post exercise have truly enhanced Malaysian-U.S. interoperability,” Neal said. “This in-person exercise clearly demonstrates our renewed commitment to working together to solve important and complex problems.”
Command post exercises like Bersama Warrior are designed to strengthen the relationship between the host nation’s armed forces and the U.S. by combining them into a single staff and forcing them to work through a complex problem collectively, thus increasing interoperability and their ability to plan and conduct joint and coalition operations.
In the fictitious Bersama Warrior scenario, the United Nations Security Council resolution authorized operations on the fictional Isla Del Sol. The combined joint task force leading the response had a mission to expel the invading enemy forces from the island and transition to stability and security operations.
An enduring feature of Bersama Warrior is the Washington National Guard’s participation due to its partnership with Malaysia. In 2017, under the National Guard Bureau-administered State Partnership Program, the Washington National Guard and Malaysian armed forces were formally partnered, which started a mutually beneficial relationship with the goal of enhancing capabilities and security cooperation.
“I think that us participating in exercises – and also subject matter exchanges – definitely strengthens our partnership with our state partners,” said Army Lt. Col. Reena Emme, Bersama Warrior C-2 Intelligence lead and the Washington National Guard Overseas Deployment Training Lead Planner. “There is a lot of planning that was done for this exercise. However, I think it was very worth it because it helps build our relationship together.”
While going through the inevitable aches and pains of combining a team of strangers from different cultures and then planning and executing a response to a fictitious scenario, the team bonded in surprising ways through a shared sense of service and history.
For Army Lt. Col. Vic Pirak, the Bersama Warrior C-3 Current Operations Planner and executive officer for the Washington National Guard's 56th Theater Information Operations Group, the experience was especially poignant. He received an award from the C-3 Operations lead who also serves with the Malaysian Army’s 19th Battalion Royal Malay Regiment (Mechanized). The wooden crest award was engraved with the motto, “Tegak Teguh Gagah Perkasa,” which translates from Malay to English as, “To Stand Firm and Gallant.”
“It was very much an honor to receive that…because it really recognized how our staff as a whole had come together, U.S. and Malaysian,” he said. “Significantly about the 19th Mechanized, they were the unit back in 1993 that was serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in Somalia.”
A portion of the Malaysian training audience included soldiers from the 19th Battalion. Throughout the two weeks their American counterparts learned that the history of the 19th included the rescue of U.S. Army Rangers during the Battle of Mogadishu, also known as the ‘Black Hawk Down’ incident in 1993. Approximately 870 members of the regiment were deployed to Somalia as part of the United Nations UNOSOM II Operation and 100 Malaysian soldiers helped with the rescue. A Malaysian soldier ultimately lost his life during the mission.
“They're very proud of that lineage and history,” he said.
“As we went along, it's neat to see everybody come together. You're not seeing everybody in different uniforms. It's just like ‘hey we have a job to get to done’ and then we get better at communicating,” Pirak added.
Approximately 100 U.S. personnel participated in Bersama Warrior command post exercise, consisting of operational staff planners.
"United States Indo-Pacific Command and the Washington National Guard are grateful for the quality training and gracious hospitality of our Malaysian military partners,” said Air Force Col. Scott Humphrey, Bersama Warrior 2022 Chief of Staff and commander of the Washington Air National Guard's Western Air Defense Sector. “As we strive for improved interoperability, shared regional vision, and mutual cooperation, we look forward to rewarding future engagements and lifelong friendships.”