Roughly 100 members of the Washington National Guard deployed this month to participate in two annual exercises with Malaysian Armed Forces.
Keris Strike and Bersama Warrior are two separate exercises that focus on different topics, but will take place around the same time. Joseph Siemandel, Public Affairs Officer for the Washington National Guard, said that Bersama Warrior is a command post exercise located in Kuala Lumpur, organized as a general United States Army Pacific (USARPAC) command exercise.
“It’s a bilateral exercise designed to advance inner-operability to build capacity to plan and conduct joint and combined operations,” he said.
Lt. Col. Alyson Teeter, who will act as the public affairs officer within the Bersama exercise, added that a command post “is the heartbeat of an operation. Basically, we’re coming up with the plans for the field to execute.”
Outside the Malaysian capital at Buloh Camp, Keris Strike will focus solely on Subject Matter Expert Exchanges. Siemandel said Keris Strike will include topics like unmanned aerial systems, public affairs information operations, civil affairs, and medical and special operations.
Both exercises will be smaller than previous years because each is more focused on ramping up for much larger 2020 exercises that will utilize several hundred more guardsmen.
The Keris Strike exercise transpired out of the National Guard’s 25-year-old State Partnership Program. According to the National Guard website, a U.S. European Command decision in 1991 to set up a Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region evolved into partnering state guards with nations around the world. Washington was one of the most recent states to establish another relationship with a foreign ally under the State Partnership Program in 2017. There are now 75 established relationships with countries around the world through the program.
Siemandel said states often pair with countries that provide a mutual benefit. He added that Malaysia and Washington’s other partner country, Thailand, have a lot in common with the state in regards to imports and exports.
“Washington has some of the biggest ports in the United States with Seattle and Tacoma, as well as you’ve got port security topics that come up with Vancouver and Portland,” he said, also acknowledging that a lot of goods come into the U.S. from Southeast Asia.
In fact, The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a marine cargo operating partnership of the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma, cites Malaysia as one of its top 10 trading partners.
Teeter and Siemendel further clarified that both exercises are primarily focused on building a positive relationship between Malaysia and the state of Washington.
“This exercise is an opportunity to really strengthen our relationship with our Malaysian teammates and increase our familiarization with them,” Teeter said.
Even moreso, Siemendel said the partnership also allows the two entities to learn from one another, which could be especially beneficial in a state or federal emergency.
“We may think we are an expert on something but they might have an expertise on a topic that we can learn from them and share those best practices,” Siemandel said. “That’s what makes these kind of trainings important.”
One of Teeter’s biggest predicted takeaways will not only be the new friends, but how much she will learn during the Bersama Warrior exercise.
“It’s certainly going to help me sharpen my skills,” she said. “Personally, this is a great opportunity to work on my public affairs skillset and improve.”Read comments