Yudh Abhyas 2011-12   HOMEPAGE
Exercise Yudh Abhyas bridges U.S., Indian army engineers
By Army Capt. Bonnie Cowles, 2d Engineer Brigade PAO

Click for high resolution image
An Indian Army soldier takes a quick breath during live-fi re training, which was part of Yudh Abhyas 2012. Soldiers of 2nd Engineer Brigade participated in the exercise with their Indi an counterparts of 471 Combat Engineer Brigade. (U.S. Army video still/Staff Sgt. Robert Ham)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- For the first time in eight years engineer brigades participated in the annual Yudh Abhyas bilateral exercise.

The U.S Army's 2d Engineer Brigade from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, teamed up with its Indian Army hosts, the 471 Combat Engineer Brigade, in Bathinda, India, to train on a United Nations-modelled peace support operation.

During the course of 14 days, the engineer brigades bridged cultural and operational differences to create one cohesive staff capable of analyzing and developing courses of action to apply to various peacekeeping scenarios.

During the first week, both brigades attended a series of lectures that focused on counterinsurgency, disaster management and United Nation peacekeeping operations.

Participants also taught classes on military history and cultural customs culminating in a shared celebration of Holi, the Hindu celebration of colors symbolizing the end of winter and beginning of spring.

For many soldiers the festivities marked the end of the academic exchange and the beginning of the unity and cultural immersion to come.

U.S. Army Maj. Melissa Koenig, the 2d Engineer Brigade judge advocate, described Holi as the day when the real bonding began.

The second week kicked off the command post exercise. For Brigadier Rajeev Chaudhry, the commander of the 471 Combat Engineer Brigade, this exercise was a "golden chance to train together."

Determined to take advantage of it and knowing both armies had a lot to contribute, he and 2d Engineer Brigade Commander U.S. Army Col. Thomas Roth decided to integrate both brigade staffs into one combined brigade tactical operations center.

Embracing their commanders' intent, Indian Army Officer Lt. Col. Pranaya Dangwal and U.S Army Lt. Col. Mark Nadig, took it a step further and had each staff member work directly with a counterpart from the other army. As senior leaders, they recognized the key to constructing a successful team was developing relationships.

"Everything should be done shoulder to shoulder," Nadig said.

He said he strongly believes the experience would open leaders up to a larger perspective of the world and any potential operating environment in which they may find themselves conducting missions.

Each army was eager to use the other's methods, so the team used the U.S Army's military decision making process for the first half and the Indian Army's task to appreciation process for the second. The staff quickly realized that in order to progress from one step of the analysis to the next, patience and the ability to understand their counterpart's perspective was essential.

"When we had to (do) MDMP together and everyone wanted to put their point of view ahead of their counterparts. We had to thoroughly explain our methods and practices without offending anyone," Sgt. Maj. Eric Vidal, the 2d Engineer Brigade's logistics sergeant major, said.

Vidal said the greatest lesson he learned was the way in which the Indian Army analyzed and problem solved.

"The Indian Army analyses all problems thoroughly and drills down to the company level," he said.

As a result, according to Vidal, the Indian Army influenced him to develop his analytical skills as well as a better plan for his subordinates.

The consensus was clear among the Indian Army engineers - the biggest takeaway was the use of mock engagements with role players to better develop soldiers.

In the U.S. Army, it is common to reinforce classroom training with practical exercises. Using role players to help replicate scenarios Soldiers may find themselves in while conducting missions is just one way in which the U.S. Army practices this paradigm; something the Indian Army had very little exposure to until now.

Indian Army Lt. Col. Dangwal, who completed his first mock key leader engagement during this CPX, found role playing to be an enjoyable learning experience, describing the event as a "fun sense of exposure." He said he plans to incorporate this type of training for his subordinates in the future.

Throughout the exercise, noncommissioned officers worked behind the scenes, but they didn't go unnoticed.

When asked what impressed him the most, Indian Army Capt. Vijay Patel said, "The leadership quietly shown by NCOs in administration as well as in operation conditions."

Dangwal echoed that sentiment.

"The NCO Corps of the U.S. Army is an absolute strength," he said, describing it as something the Indian Army can learn from.

What was most surprising to both sides was how similar the armies were. Both were well trained, professional armies with extraordinary leadership and experience who share many of the same concerns.

"We have much in common, from structure to war fighting ethic, and I wouldn't have thought that before I came here", said U.S. Army Maj. Brian Brobeck, 2d Engineer Brigade's current operations officer for the exercise.

Click for high resolution image
Indian Army Lt. Gen. Gyan Bhushan, Uttam Vishist Seva Medal and Spc. Walter Colindres share a greeting during Bhushan's visit to the command post exercise site during Yudh Abhyas 2011-2012, a United Nations-modeled peace support operation. (U.S. Army photo/Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wandy Tumline)