Army's 'Ghost Brigade' enhances readiness alongside global partners at home
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- During the month of September, two battalions from the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team trained with Indian and Japanese armed forces to enhance interoperability and to increase the brigade's readiness.
The two separate training missions consisted of exercise Rising Thunder with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, known as JGSDF, and exercise Yudh Abhyas with the Indian Army. Both training scenarios focused on sharing tactics and ideas to become better, more effective warfighters. From long range sniper and anti-tank training to urban combat and command post exercises, every service member learned how the other nation's armed service operated and provided input to become more effective partners.
Rising Thunder was conducted between the JGSDF and the U.S. 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, at Yakima Training Center, Washington, Sept. 5-20. Yudh Abhyas was held Sept. 15-27 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and included soldiers from the U.S. 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, and the Indian Army's 2/11 Gorkha Rifles.
"There are numerous benefits these exercises bring," said Col. Jasper Jeffers, the commander of 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team. "I think the interoperability, relationships and experience we gain from working with our partners and understanding how they approach problems drives readiness and allows us to be able to execute our mission in the Pacific theater."
Building these kinds of relationships is just as important to members of the JGSDF, said Capt. David Darnell, assistant operations officer with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. In the future, the U.S. and Japan may end up on the same battlefield. They have now established those important relationships and won't be starting from zero during wartime.
Achieving a degree of interoperability with the United States Army is also the purpose of Yudh Abhyas, said Col. B.K. Attri, an Indian Army officer with 2/11 Gorkha Rifles. If a joint threat should arise, both armies can operate with better ease and understanding of each other's ground battle drills.
"I don't think you can put a price on the intangibles of long term relationships, especially in the military community," Jeffers said. "Our most interoperable partners are the ones that we had the longest relationships with."
During Yudh Abhyas, U.S. Soldiers learned how tactically patient Indian Army soldiers were, said Staff Sgt. Brent Brabant, who was a platoon sergeant during the exercise. They will wait until they receive orders before they act in certain circumstances, while U.S. Soldiers are more initiative-based. If the conditions are already set, and the Soldiers don't receive a radio call, there are primary and alternate contingencies that allow U.S. Soldiers to conduct their part of the mission.
"We would practice their tactics and techniques and we would practice ours," said Brabant. "It was good seeing both sides."
"The Ghost Brigade brought a tremendous amount of mounted and dismounted infantry during the exercise paired with the mobility that the Stryker vehicle gives you," said Jeffers. "That also includes all the fire power and communications capabilities that the platform provides."
The Indians and Japanese also bring their unique expertise in environments that U.S. Soldiers don't often get to train in, Jeffers added. The Indians have a lot of mountainous regions with the Himalayas on one side, and also being near Kashmir. This particular Indian unit has been fighting in the Siachen glacier area for years.
The Japanese bring a focus on homeland defense, said Jeffers. "Their training and experiences are some things that we don't often get with our Soldiers unless we deploy for training somewhere else."
"This is the first time my Soldiers got to work with somebody outside the U.S. Army," said Brabant. "The Soldiers had the ability to see what it is like in another army. They saw the pride that the 2/11 Gorkha Rifles took in just their name and motto."
The most important gain is building readiness for the future fight, said Jeffers. It really ends there.
"This interoperability will allow us to function with our partners when needed in support of the military objectives of the United States," Jeffers said. "We will need to be able to work with them. This is about the readiness of our force."
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