Thursday, 25 October 2012

Troops from India to train at Fort Bragg with 82nd Airborne

The Indian army will send about 400 soldiers to Fort Bragg in May for the first time for a military exercise with the 82nd Airborne Division, Army officials said Tuesday.

About 400 U.S. soldiers will be involved in the Yudh Abhyas exercise May 3-17, U.S. Army Pacific officials said.

"We started Yudh Abhyas several years ago," Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific in Hawaii, said in an interview with The Fayetteville Observer. "It's an exchange of combat units. One year, we spent it in India. The next year, we spend it in the United States."

Wiercisnski said he has discussed the exercise with Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division.

"He's excited about it," said Wiercinski. a master parachutist who made a combat parachute jump into Panama in 1989 with the Rangers but was never assigned to Fort Bragg. "I appreciate his total support on this."

Wiercinski was in Washington for the 2012 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition. He participated in panels on the "rebalancing" of Army forces in the Pacific after a decade of warfare in the Middle East. Army officials also discussed the increasing importance of aligning units to specific regions of the world such as the Pacific and Middle East.

"Most of the time, we've been doing it in the Pacific," Wiercinski said. "We wanted to give them a different flavor and a different location, and Fort Bragg was kind enough to offer it up."

Soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps and California National Guard also will participate, Army Pacific officials said.

Indian and U.S. planners are working out the details of the exercise, but few details are available, said Lt. Col. Virginia McCabe, an 82nd Airborne Division spokeswoman.

In 2010, soldiers of U.S. Army Alaska participated in the exercise with the Indian army. An airborne unit from the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division conducted a parachute assault. It was too early to say on Tuesday whether the Fort Bragg exercise will involve a parachute jump and exchange of parachutist badges between the soldiers of the two countries.

The purpose of the exercise will be bilateral operations, the exchange of ideas and developing the ability to work side by side, Wiercinski said.

"Last year, we had a Stryker unit in India with the Indians," he said. The U.S. soldiers worked with an Indian mounted cavalry unit.

"It was almost seamless, like they had been working together for years," Wiercinski said. "They've done competitions - squad, platoon. It's a pretty good exercise. It's evolving every year. Now at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with the 82nd Airborne Division, I think it will be a tremendous opportunity."

The U.S. has a "budding relationship" with India, Wiercisnki said. "For years, we did not work together. Now, we are re-establishing a relationship. It's a very good relationship. They have a tremendously professional army, a lot of the same equipment."

The two armies could be called upon to work together in the future, he said.
"We're not looking for missions," he said. "What we are looking for is just cooperation and exchange and making sure we understand each other and keeping the dialogue and the engagement open."

The exercise will have no impact on U.S. relations with Pakistan, which sometimes has tensions with neighboring India.

"They know about our exercises," Wiercinski said. "We have a relationship with Pakistan. We have a relationship with India."

The 1st Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is the Army corps that is aligned with the Pacific, but 18th Airborne Corps could be called upon for a mission in the Pacific if 1st Corps is not available, Wiercinski said.

The 18th Airborne Corps participated in an exercise in South Korea this year. Lt. Gen. Daniel Allyn was an operational commander in the exercise.

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