By Sgt. 1st Class Frank L. MarquezJune 14, 2010
BANDUNG, Indonesia -- Continuing an era of cooperation, the Indonesian military hosted the opening ceremony of Garuda Shield 2010 on Thursday at the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) Infantry Training Center in the District of Cipatat.
Maj. Gen. Soenarko, commander of the infantry center, and Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, the adjutant general of Hawaii Army National Guard (HIARNG), greeted more than 1,100 military members at the hour-long ceremony. Representatives from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines and the United States stood in a mass formation while listening to welcoming remarks delivered by both Soenarko and Lee.
Garuda Shield began four years ago in Bogor with the goal of training various nations' militaries for United Nations peacekeeping missions. The objectives have not changed over the years with the exception of the Indonesians taking the lead on training. Their U.S. counterparts now give limited guidance.
"Each country has its own standard, which explains the reason for having a U.N. certification," Soenarko said. "The idea is to have one standard."
Indonesia is preparing to send an engineering company to Lebanon later this year. The Indonesians have been sending troops to Lebanon for year-long rotations since December 2006, according to Maj. Charles Carter, exercise coordinator. The Indonesians have also deployed engineers to the Congo.
"The objectives of this exercise show Indonesia's contribution for worldwide peace, and the solidarity between participating countries," Lee said. "The benefit of having exercises like Garuda Shield is the knowledge that we can work together when natural or other disasters strike."
As part of the exercise, staff officers from the Pacific Command, the HIARNG, USARPAC, and the TNI will form a brigade to test peace support and stability operations capabilities.
Other troops are in the middle of conducting a field training exercise to exchange UN standardized organizational tactics, techniques and procedures to improve tactical interoperability.
Meanwhile, engineers are working in Indonesia's rural communities to provide humanitarian civic actions (HCA). Every day scores of children mil about the construction sites to watch the progress. Engineer partners are making quick work of a baby clinic, community center and amphitheatre.
"As the executive of the mission, without forgetting the peacekeeping and field training aspect, I strongly emphasize the lasting impression those kids will have of the U.S.," said Exercise Commander Col. Tony Diaz. "That's priceless. It's beneficial when those communities see our soldiers working next to their soldiers."
The HCA work sites represent how the U.S. and Indonesian military-to-military ties have improved greatly in the last five years, and hold the promise of continued improvement in the years to come, according to organizers. There remain some minor challenges. Lee described one of those hurdles as having the appropriate mindset. "First, countries are asked to defend their own nations," he said. "But they are also asked to be diplomats. Therefore, we must involve many more nations in our efforts which would be a key to circumventing world conflicts."
Sgt. Rick Domec of the HIARNG met that challenge as he arrived in Indonesia. He discovered that U.N. standards apply different rules of engagement. He and Soldiers from C Troop, 299 Cav (Recon Surveillance Target Acquisition), have been observing the various tactics at the field training exercise adjacent to the TNI Training Center.
"We just returned from a deployment in Kuwait last August and September. We were running convoy operations through Iraq to as far as Mosul," he said. "There, we had to constantly be alert. But with the U.N., we don't have to look at everyone as a threat. We look at them as friends, and we are asked to identify ourselves as U.N. peacekeepers."
As Indonesia grows more confident in its training role, it is believed that the same will happen with other nations. "In three years, I've seen the Indonesian military progress. This is their exercise now," Diaz said. "We came here to provide support and guidance, but they run it. They plan it. They execute it. They are on a par with any national military that I've been associated with in my 29 years.
Diaz added that "hopefully with U.N. training, other nations will accept a larger role as their forces become more professional with access to training like Garuda Shield 2010, and they develop military doctrine modeled after our education system - the Command and Staff College, and Army War College. Those countries can then become our strategic partners."
(Spc. Emerson Marcus, 106th Public Affairs Detachment, contributed to this report.)