By 1st Lt. Christina Douglas, 9th Mission Support CommandJuly 19, 2010
KUANTAN, Malaysia - In an effort to build relations and sharpen U.N.-focused, peace support operational skills, U.S. and Malaysian service members have combined their expertise and talents for an intense, one-week, command post exercise here as part of U.S. Army, Pacific's Keris Strike 2010 exercise.
Hosted by Malaysia's 3rd Infantry Division and 4th Brigade Mechanized, Keris Strike 2010 is the latest in a series of regional exercises designed to promote peace and security while continuing to strengthen U.S./Malaysian relations and further build on the peace support operational capacity of its participants.
Leading the U.S. effort for the fourth year is the U.S. Army Reserve's 9th Mission Support Command, which serves as executive agent for the exercise by providing operational control, logistical coordination, planning life support for participants and providing key personnel for the 14th annual event.
In addition to the Malaysian Armed Forces and the 9th MSC, members of the Utah National Guard's 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade; the Guam National Guard's 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment; the 441st Military Intelligence Battalion; the 56th Theater Information Operation Group; the 411th and 413th Contracting Support Brigades; and U.S. Pacific Command play key roles in the training exercise.
Prior to this point, exercise participants focused on mastering the basics of peace support operations during two, lengthy days of academic training followed by building bilateral teams to execute a four-day, mini staff exercise. Now, midway through the third and final phase, the CPX is where this collective team can put what they've learned into action.
For the multi-national brigade-level effort, members of Utah National Guard's 204th MEB are working side-by-side with Malaysia's 4th Brigade Mechanized.
"The combined brigade allows us to work together with the Malaysian Armed Forces and build a relationship with them. We are learning their TTP's [tactics, techniques and procedures] and in exchange they are learning ours," said Sgt. Daniel B. Lemley, assistant operations noncommissioned officer, 204th MEB. "This will be good practice for us because in real life we could be tasked to do this."
With simulated enemy factions roaming the streets and non-government officials desperately attempting to bring relief to the heart of a hostile operational environment, this CPX scenario is no easy feat for either the U.S. or Malaysian Armed Forces.
Designed and led by the Center for Civil-Military Relations, this CPX requires the participating units to act as a Multi-National Force in a U.N., peace-enforcement scenario. Stability operations, civil-military operations, humanitarian assistance and joint operations are among the integrated key tasks.
"For the last four years we've worked on developing a very focused exercise," said Steven Schowalter, an exercise planner for CCMR. "We've been very successful with getting a team of subject matter experts that have real operational experience in U.N. missions and stability operations missions so that they can coach, teach and mentor in the training environment. So far the exercise has been effective in training to those standards."
In the CPX phase, the staff officers initiate a safe and secure environment and, when required, provide forces to assist with humanitarian efforts. For Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matt Barker, a planner in the Standing Joint Force Headquarters, U.S. Pacific Command, working as a team with the Malaysian Armed Forces proved to be beneficial.
"The Navy counterpart at the brigade is pretty familiar with U.S. operations, so he was able to answer a lot of questions about how both the U.S. and Malaysian Navy do business," said Barker, who is an F-18 Hornet pilot by trade. "He's pretty knowledgeable on the capabilities for both."
Many other exercise participants expressed the same level of mutual respect for their MAF counterparts.
"This is an eye-opening experience both for us and the Malays," said Lt. Col. Karl L. Wright, the deputy brigade commander for the 204th MEB, Utah Army National Guard. "We are learning how to accomplish goals in ways other than the American way."
Keris Strike is a USARPAC Theater Security Cooperation Program and Global Peace Operations Initiative-sponsored event for the Asia-Pacific Region. Through participation in this exercise, participants strengthen their capabilities in international peace support operations worldwide.
"We want to maintain a relationship with the Malaysians so that if there's a future operation-a real operation that we're going to work together in-we've already established that capability and knowledge of how each other thinks and how each other works," said Barker. "I also think the social piece of it is important in a cross cultural sense...and that we can get along even despite any fundamental differences."
Following the CPX, exercise participants will conclude their training with a closing ceremony and dinner social. Keris Strike 2010 is scheduled to end July 23.