The U.S. Army’s bilateral exercise in Alaska with the Indian Army, dubbed Yudh Abhyas, ended Friday after two weeks of cold-weather warfare training and a mock United Nations mission centered around a country torn between rival factions.
Approximately 350 Indian soldiers from the 7th Battalion of the Madras Regiment participated in the exercise alongside American paratroopers based in Alaska. Indian forces may have primarily originated in southern India, but they are working in the Himalayas, where Indian and Chinese forces have battled over border disputes in recent months.
“There are no mountains higher or farther than the Himalayas, and that kind of subject matter expertise will make our paratroopers much more capable in arctic warfare,” said Col. US Army Jody Shouse on Indian soldiers and the skills they brought to the exercise.
Shouse commands the 4th Infantry Brigade, the 25th Infantry Division, which worked with Indian forces this year. The Indian unit – nicknamed “Shandaar Saath”, meaning “The Magnificent Seven” – was led by Indian Army Brigadier Parag Nangare.
The two commanders responded to questions posed by Army Times about the exercise, which took place October 15-29.
Yudh Abhyas has sought to improve interoperability between Indian and American soldiers to help them work better together in future contingencies across the Indo-Pacific region, according to the military.
The exercise has shown the two armies that they are “much stronger and more effective together,” Shouse said.
“Likewise,” Nangare noted. “We learned about the different technologies used by the US military in its combat deployments, in particular the exercises and equipment of counter improvised explosive devices and unmanned aerial counter systems. “
“When they are mixed, [this] allowed us to overcome problems that might otherwise seem overwhelming, ”added Shouse.
According to the two commanders, the exercise had two main components: field training and command post training.
Fieldwork was kinetic, with the culminating event being the capture of tactical objectives and the capture of a high-value target.
Field training also involved developing cold weather and high altitude skills in mountaineering and snow survival, medical evacuations and small arms shooting.
“There are certain particular conditions which are specific to high altitudes, in particular those which affect people and materials”, Nangare noted. “Firearms and other equipment face many maintenance issues. Range calibration is a challenge and vehicles also face issues both during operations and repairs. “
The command post training was based on a simulated United Nations mission in a country torn between rival factions. He introduced soldiers to the challenges of protecting civilian infrastructure and limiting the use of force to comply with UN mandates.
“Our staffs have focused on the human element,” said Shouse. “[They] focused on supporting local governments and community leaders in building these relationships and securing the area to enable aid organizations to deliver aid where it was needed.
The two leaders said they felt the exercise was a success, with soldiers from both armies learning important lessons from each other that they hope to bring back to the table next year.
US troops will travel to India for the next iteration of the exercise, Shouse said, noting that while the scope of training may change from year to year, the relationship between the two armies will continue to develop.
“The ongoing defense cooperation between India and the United States is strong and is getting stronger every day and every year,” Nangare said. “I am sure that in the future we will continue our strong partnership. “
“We [will] aim to return the warmth and hospitality that we experienced here in Alaska, ”added Nangare.
COVID-19 mitigation efforts were made throughout the event, including testing, social distancing, mask warrants, monitoring of medical personnel in the field, and disinfection of all areas used, military officials said.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumnus, and a New York University master’s degree candidate for business and economics reports.