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NEWS | Sept. 21, 2021

Hawaii National Guard, Indonesia strengthen relationship in training

By Master Sgt. Andrew Jackson, Hawaii National Guard

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A team of military planners from the Hawaii National Guard kicked off an operational design workshop with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) in Jakarta, Indonesia, on September 16. The workshop is the precursor for Exercise GEMA BHAKTI, a peace operation and humanitarian assistance exercise, which will commence on September 21.

The Hawaii National Guard (HING) facilitates the workshop as a part of the State Partnership Program (SPP). This year is the first face-to-face SPP exchange between the TNI and HING since late 2019 due to the COVID Pandemic. USINDOPACOM service components are also participating.

“The Hawaii National Guard has an ongoing relationship with the TNI,” said Lt. Col. David Hosea, HING Military planner. “Building this relationship, sharing experiences, and training alongside our partners helps maintain security and stability in the Pacific.”

The Hawaii National Guard is state partners with Indonesia and regularly held combined exercises and events to increase the depth of that relationship before the pandemic. This is the fourth year Hawaii and Indonesia have participated in an operational design seminar. The 2020 edition was executed virtually.

Operational design is a process where a committee of military members examines complex problems to help define variables, goals, tension points, and the desired end-state to aid in planning and executing military or governmental action. The process is a key first step in military planning that requires committees of personnel from diverse backgrounds to understand complex social, political problems and make recommendations on the desired end-state or develop an operational approach. Once the scenario is framed, analyzed, and debated, then lines of effort are proposed. The lines of effort define the actions needed to move a situation from the current state to the desired state, and once agreed upon, this will trigger Exercise GEMA BHAKTI.

“Operational design takes complex situations and breaks them down in easy, manageable steps in the military planning process,” said Lt. Col. Brandon Torres, Hawaii Army National Guard military intelligence officer. “This is important because in our current operating environment, things are not as simple as they used to be. This step must be done right. We need to think through the problems and get to a solution. This process helps us to define what the true nature of the problem is so we can plan a response.”

The operational design workshop’s secondary goal is to establish relationships between the Hawaii National Guard members and their Indonesian counterparts. During the four-day exercise, the full spectrum of team building is experienced, from storming to conforming. The added Covid-19 protocols had little diminishing effect on the overall training.

The Hawaii National Guard brought a diverse team for this year’s workshop to help foster a deeper level of discussions and exposure for the staff. A hallmark of this type of military engagement is professionally spirited conversations as each member shares their knowledge, experience and opinions on the different aspects of the scenario. They work as a team to come to a common understanding.

As the teams worked to frame the problem, their relationships began to mesh, and new facets of the scenario came to light. The entire group would pause throughout each day, and each team would present their products - further shedding light on different variables and possible ways forward.

“I have learned a lot during this staff exercise,” said Maj. Raja Sitanggang, Tentara Nasional Indonesia staff officer. “As a peacekeeping officer, I help guide the planning process as we transition from peace enforcement to peacekeeping inside this year’s exercise scenario. This exercise requires us to think critically and creatively because there is no easy established answer. The Hawaii National Guard is very professional and selected diverse officers to represent them in this program. It is impressive.”

While the covid protocols, mandatory mask wear, temperature checks, and periodic room sanitization had little effect on the actual execution of the workshop, getting the military staff in one room for the first time in 18 months required many more steps than usual. Every Hawaii and U.S. delegation member was required to be fully vaccinated and were tested multiple times before leaving for Indonesia. They adhered to the quarantine of 7-day and were tested an additional two times before the workshop started. The TNI members were also quarantined before the start of the exercise.