CAMP BABINA, India (Oct. 26, 2009) -- Despite a diversity of equipment and missions, Indian and U.S. Army Soldiers found common ground while training together during Exercise Yudh Abhyas 09, an annual bilateral multi-echelon battalion-level exercise with a focus on peacekeeping operations.
This year's participating Soldiers are from the Indian Army's 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, 94th Armored Brigade, 31st Armored Division and the U.S. Army's 2nd Squadron, 14th Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
"It's been a good experience," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kyle O'Leary, who is assigned to Troop A, and who was also embedded with the Indian Army during part of the exercise. "Even with the language barrier and some Indian soldiers having only limited English, we were still able to get past it and communicate."
Platoons and individuals from both armies exchanged knowledge of tactics, techniques and procedures, demonstrations of assigned weapons, vehicles and equipment, and much more.
"For one mission, we went on a little raid, a challenge between their two companies, to try and sneak in through their security," said O'Leary. "It was fun."
From the Boyevaya Machina Pekhoty, or BMP, a Soviet-era amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle to the Stryker, the Insas Sniper Rifle to the M24, both Indian and U.S. Armies tested out one another's equipment and vehicles while embedded with their counterparts during YA 09.
"We swapped equipment, we let them use one of our PVS-14s [a form of night vision monocular], we rode on their BMPs with them," said O'Leary. "Somehow they fit anywhere from eight to 10 people in the back of the BMP. With all of our gear, and we are a little bit bigger than they are, we can fit six, and it's pretty tight and cramped. The BMP, especially for those of us coming in prior to 9-11, who were trained to fight the BMP, along with other Soviet vehicle recognition that we learned, now actually being able to ride inside the same vehicles is an experience in itself."
Sgt. Maj. Edward Dunn, squadron operations sergeant major, worked directly with an Indian army corporal who was responsible for the daily operations and responsibilities of the Tactical Operations Center during the exercise.
"Corporal Dan Kamal performed duties like a United States Army corporal would perform his duties, with little guidance, professionalism, and motivation as he consistently made things happen that enabled the U.S. and Indian Army mission to be a world class event," said Dunn.
From officer to noncommissioned officer to Soldier, reports of camaraderie and findings of similarity between Soldiers were common.
"From the battalion command partnership to the individual Soldier partnerships, across the range of formal to informal, we are all just Soldiers and that remains the common thread that has allowed the bonding and partnership to flourish to what I believe is truly better classified as a friendship," said Squadron Executive Officer Maj. Tom Anderson.
Dunn stated that by the time Kamal prepared to leave, the two had found a bond more like family. "I had realized how our relationship had grown over three weeks and how important our mission was in regards to not only maneuvering, but establishing lifelong friendships," said Dunn.
Anderson concurred with this sentiment among the Soldiers of Yudh Abhyas 09. "We have shared stories of assignments, deployments, and families, played sports that were never directed, but it just happens as you put two Soldiers on break between ... classes, at the range waiting to fire, during operations or wherever two or more Soldiers came together," Anderson said.
"We overcame the language, cultural, rank, and religious barriers and bonded on a level understood only by the Soldiers that will depart this exercise with a new found respect for one another as a country, army, unit, soldier and comrade."