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The largest installment yet of Super Garuda Shield, a 16-year-old annual training event, officially concluded Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, but not before a let-your-hair down official party for the troops who took part in the exercise.

The largest installment yet of Super Garuda Shield, a 16-year-old annual training event, officially concluded Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022, but not before a let-your-hair down official party for the troops who took part in the exercise. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

BATURAJA, Indonesia — Music and dance took the place of artillery and airlifters over the weekend as Indonesians bid farewell to thousands of U.S., Australian and Singaporean troops after two-weeks of strenuous military training in Southeast Asia’s most populous nation.

The largest installment yet of Super Garuda Shield, a 16-year-old annual training event, officially concluded Sunday but not before a let-your-hair down official party for the troops who took part in the exercise.

Indonesian junior high school students performed traditional dances, twirling colorful umbrellas in front of a pair of rocket launchers and a Jumbotron.

Hundreds of soldiers watched leaping tribesmen in traditional dress, armed with bows and arrows, a warm-up to Indonesian troops displaying their martial arts skills by smashing concrete blocks with their heads.

A day earlier, Spc. Keegan McCaffery, 22, of Missoula, Mont., had been training on a sniper rifle. He compared Saturday’s performance to what he’d seen Native Americans do in the States.

“It’s a little different to back home,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see other walks of life and different cultures.”

Hundreds of soldiers watch Indonesian troops display their martial arts skills at Baturaja Training Area, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

Hundreds of soldiers watch Indonesian troops display their martial arts skills at Baturaja Training Area, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Super Garuda Shield is part of international cooperation that protects an 80-year era of peace and prosperity “underlined by the rules-based order,” the head of Indo-Pacific Command, Adm. John Aquilino, said Friday during a visit to the Baturaja Training Area, Indonesia’s largest. “This exercise is part of that.”

Super Garuda Shield involved 2,000 U.S., 2,000 Indonesian and a smaller number of troops from a handful of other nations. It began Aug. 1 on the island of Sumatra.

During the exercise, soldiers from the U.S., Indonesia and Japan parachuted into the training area and Marines and Indonesians secured an airfield in Palembang on Sumatra.

On Friday, Aquilino and the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, Gen. Muhammad Andika Perkasa, watched as American, Indonesian, Australian and Singaporean troops capped off the training with a morning of live-fire action at Baturaja.

The next morning at a sports and cultural day in the training area, soldiers from those nations tossed around an American football in a game that looked loosely based on Australian Rules football.

A pop band that included Indonesian soldiers performs for an enthusiastic crowd at Baturaja Training Area, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.

A pop band that included Indonesian soldiers performs for an enthusiastic crowd at Baturaja Training Area, Indonesia, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

A pop band that included Indonesian soldiers played music by Queen, Bon Jovi and Europe for an enthusiastic crowd who seemed to have plenty of energy left despite the heat, humidity and two weeks of training.

Spc. Jordan Sellers, 23, of Lima, Okla., an infantryman with the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, took it all in.

“For us the highlight was working with all the partners here, living with them in the field and seeing how they move,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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