CAMP BUNDELA, India: With a massive display of firepower and teamwork, the U.S. and Indian armies finished their largest joint military exercise to date yesterday.
The exercise is dubbed “Yudh Abhyas,” loosely translated as “war preparation.”
About 250 U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Cavalry Squadron, based out of Hawaii brought 17 of their Stryker combat vehicles and paired with the Indian army’s 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion here at one of India’s premier military training sites.
Since Oct. 12, the two armies have swapped soldiers, shared equipment and traded war stories, officials said.
“That’s the most important aspect of this whole exercise — getting to know each other, getting to appreciate our cultures, and working together as a team,” said Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commander of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific.
Mixon and a host of Indian army generals traveled here Oct. 26 to view a culminating demonstration of firepower that offered up both the conventional battlefield power of the Indian’s T-90 tanks with the high-technology precision of the U.S. military’s tank killer, the Javelin.
Both infantries brought out their vehicles and weapons for a live-fire demonstration, and Indian helicopters dropped soldiers from both armies to join in the live-fire assault.
This was the largest deployment of the Stryker vehicle outside of deployments for war, and the Indian soldiers were eager to get a peek at its firepower and technical capabilities. The only restrictions were that the Indian soldiers could not drive the Strykers or use the high-tech communications network that manages the crew’s weapons.
Both armies traded firing their big guns on the range, and U.S. soldiers rode alongside their Indian counterparts in their infantry vehicle. A handful of Indian troops were allowed to fire the Javelin, a treat that many U.S. troops in the infantry have yet to experience.
The training started two weeks ago with simple handshakes among the soldiers and a display of the each army’s equipment. It quickly escalated to the two nations’ armies working side by side on complex maneuvers, some scenarios strongly resembling the types of joint operations troops see in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As opposed to joint military operations in which U.S. technology and firepower clearly positions itself as the superior force, the Indian army proved itself a capable force, teaching as much as it was learning, U.S. commanders on the ground said. The Indian army has long been fighting an insurgency, and brought new tactics to the table.
“The Indian army is a professional military force,” Mixon said. “I would be comfortable going with the Indian army anywhere, any time.”
The 2-14th returned from Iraq six months ago, and is slated to return in about nine months. This exercise is a ramp-up in training, as the unit prepares for larger pre-deployment training exercises such as those at the National Training Facility in California.
But while the U.S. troops leave this week with training under their belts that prepares them for their next deployment, the value of the training was integrating successfully with the Indian army.
“At the end of the day, the important part of the exercise is the future cooperation and the understanding between the two armies,” Mixon said.
The United States has sought to increase its military relations with India in recent years. Until now, most of the exercises in that effort have been smaller troop exchanges or command-level exercises using only computer-driven scenarios. This is the first time that a large number of boots on the ground have acted out those scenarios together.
“This is all about training with the Indian army, to enhance relationships so that we gain a greater understanding of each other. That’s really what this is all about,” the general said.
U.S. Pacific Command works regularly with other militaries on large-scale military operations, especially maritime.
Yudh Abhyas started in 2004 as the first conventional army-to-army training in India since 1962. In 2005, U.S. troops came to train at India’s counter-insurgency and jungle warfare school. In 2006, Indian troops went to Hawaii for training, and in 2007, troops traveled to Alaska. The exercise shifted back to Hawaii last year.
“We want to be able to work together as militaries,” Mixon said. “By us training together and getting to know each other, if there were a contingency, we would be better prepared to respond to that contingency. You cannot do that training here at the last minute.”