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With 'Yudh Abhyas,' 7th Infantry Division welcomes Indian soldiers

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2015) -- For the first time in its 11-year history, Exercise Yudh Abhyas came to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, or JBLM, Washington, bringing with it 150 soldiers from the Indian army.

The annual, bilateral exercise, which kicked off Sept. 9 and runs through Sept. 23, focuses on combined U.S. and Indian army training while promoting an enduring partnership and joint interoperability. Participating Soldiers will train together in low-intensity, counter-insurgency actions; civic assistance missions; and quick-reaction team operations. There will also be a combined command post exercise.

Participating in the exercise are Soldiers, from the 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, or SBCT; 1-23 Infantry Battalion; 593rd Expeditionary Support Command; California National Guard; and 100th Troop Command. In all, about 225 American Soldiers will participate, with most coming from the 3-2 SBCT.

From the Indian army, Soldiers from the 9th Mountain Brigade as well as from the subordinate 6th Kumaon Battalion will participate. About 150 Indian soldiers flew into JBLM aboard a C-17 aircraft to participate in the exercise.

"What we hope to accomplish here is interoperability with our Indian partners," said Brig. Gen. Robert. J. Ulses, deputy commanding general for support, 7th Infantry Division. "Doing this in peacetime will ensure that if we go to a conflict, a humanitarian assistance mission, or a disaster relief or peacekeeping operation, we are familiar with each other's tactics, techniques, and procedures, and the way we work and operate together."

Ulses cited the recent earthquake in Nepal as a scenario where American and Indian Soldiers worked alongside each other to provide disaster relief.

The two-week Yudh Abhyas includes a brigade-level command post exercise that mimics a United Nations peacekeeping operation; a field-training exercise that is focused on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency; and academic discussions on topics such as regional security, emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the U.S. Army Operating Concept, and amphibious operations.

Ulses said exercises like Yudh Abhyas further develop interoperability between the U.S. and allied militaries in the Pacific, ensuring an easier transition into combined operations if the United States and its partners must work together in the future.

"One of the objectives of the Yudh Abyahs series, for instance, is to make us more compatible, and kind of work through any issues we might have with communications gear and equipment," Ulses said. "There is a lot going on in the Pacific and the Indo-Pacific region. The more we work with our partners in that region, the better we will be able to respond to whatever contingency that may come up. India is a strong partner for us, and our relationship will continue to get stronger as we continue to do exercises like this."

Yudh Abyahs, which started in 2004, is now in its 11th year. Ulses said the United States and India alternate between hosting the exercise. In even-numbered years, the exercise is held in India. In odd-numbered years, the exercise is held in the United States. For many years, the United States hosted Yudh Abyahs in Hawaii. This is the first year it has been held at JBLM.

While Yudh Abyahs runs at JBLM, a similar exercise, Rising Thunder, is underway at nearby Yakima Training Center, Washington. Rising Thunder involves U.S. and Japanese Soldiers.

Next year, 7th Infantry Division will continue strengthening partnerships with Pacific nations though participation in Pacific Pathways exercises. During the 2016 Pacific Pathways iteration, Soldiers with the 7th Infantry Division will travel to Thailand to participate in Cobra Gold, Feb. 9-23; South Korea to participate in Foal Eagle, March 7-17; and the Philippines to participate in Balikatan, April 18-30. Participation in the exercises with armies there will increase interoperability and strengthen relationships in the Pacific.