KUANTAN, Malaysia – The Washington National Guard and Malaysian armed forces conducted the joint Bersama Warrior 2022 exercise in June.
Command post exercises like Bersama Warrior strengthen the relationship between the host nation’s armed forces and the United States by combining them into a single staff and forcing them to work through a complex problem collectively, increasing interoperability and their ability to plan and conduct joint and coalition operations.
“Over the past 12 days the hard work of the staff during this command post exercise have truly enhanced Malaysian-U.S. interoperability,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Reginald Neal, deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Pacific. “This in-person exercise clearly demonstrates our renewed commitment to working together to solve important and complex problems.”
In the Bersama Warrior scenario, the U.N. Security Council resolution authorized operations on the fictional Isla Del Sol. The mission for the combined task force was 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, the Washington National Guard and Malaysian armed forces became partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
“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 strangers from different cultures and planning and executing a mission, the team bonded 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,” or “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 U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia.”
A portion of the Malaysian training audience included soldiers from the 19th Battalion. Over two weeks, their American counterparts learned about the history of the 19th, including the rescue of U.S. Army Rangers during the Battle of Mogadishu, also known as the “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993. A Malaysian soldier died during the mission.
“They’re very proud of that lineage and history,” he said.
Approximately 100 U.S. personnel, consisting of operational staff planners, participated in Bersama Warrior.
“As we went along, it’s neat to see everybody come together,” Pirak said. “You’re not seeing everybody in different uniforms. It’s just like, ‘Hey we have a job to get done,’ and then we get better at communicating.”
Air Force Col. Scott Humphrey, Bersama Warrior 2022 chief of staff and commander of the Washington Air National Guard’s Western Air Defense Sector, praised the training and hospitality of the Malaysian military partners.
“As we strive for improved interoperability, shared regional vision and mutual cooperation, we look forward to rewarding future engagements and lifelong friendships,” Humphrey said.
The exercise culminated in a closing ceremony June 17 presided over by Neal 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.