Super Garuda Shield strengthens US-Indonesia partnership, defense cooperation


Joint drills reflect a growing demand to participate in multinational training events in the Indo-Pacific.

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A US Marine AH-1Z Viper conducts flights before a combined-arms, live-fire exercise during Super Garuda Shield in Indonesia last September 9. [US Marine Corps]
A US Marine AH-1Z Viper conducts flights before a combined-arms, live-fire exercise during Super Garuda Shield in Indonesia last September 9. [US Marine Corps]

The US military is investing in large-scale training exercises designed to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The largest of these is Super Garuda Shield, a multinational exercise that forms the cornerstone for the US-Indonesia military relationship and has expanded to include other partner nations.

It started as a smaller exercise, called the Garuda Shield exchange, first held in 2006 as a training exercise for Indonesian forces and the US Army.

It expanded over the years and became Super Garuda Shield in 2022, including US Air Force and Navy drills and involving more countries. It has been held twice in that format, most recently last August-September.

Last year, the two-week exercise involved more than 4,000 personnel from 19 nations -- seven participating and 12 observing nations. The bulk of participants were from the United States, with 2,100 troops, and Indonesia, with 1,900 troops.

Australia, Japan, Singapore, France and the United Kingdom also participated.

Super Garuda Shield is uniquely super-sized, but it is one of many cooperative exercises in the region.

The US Department of Defense conducts more than 40 multinational exercises in the Indo-Pacific every year as part of Operation Pathways.

Those include Keen Edge, an exercise between the United States and Japan; Cobra Gold, which was hosted in Thailand last February; Exercise Balikatan, an annual exercise with the Philippines; and Exercise Talisman Sabre, the largest joint exercise between Australia and the United States.

Humanitarian and civic projects

Super Garuda Shield includes command and control simulation, amphibious and airborne operations, an airfield seizure exercise and field training with a live-fire event.

But it goes beyond military matters, with the training including expert academic exchanges, professional development workshops and humanitarian outreach.

Training has included focus on United Nations peacekeeping operation staff tasks in a military setting.

As part of the program, the Hawaii National Guard engaged in 10 years of knowledge exchange and military planning with the Indonesian National Military (TNI), focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Hawaii National Guard members brought experience responding to real-world domestic operations like volcanic eruptions, floods, wildfire and COVID-19.

And last year US Army personnel and Army reservists worked with the TNI to restore a school building.

"I was very happy working with the US Army at the school; they are very good," said TNI Marine Pvt. Eli Nanang Sutanto, engineer, 12th Construction Battalion.

"Hopefully next time we can work together again on another mission," he said in a statement after the project ended.

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