By Staff Sgt. Brandon A. Boyd
WAIMANALO, Hawaii — A mix of sage and jungle-patterned camouflage made it difficult to focus in the dim auditorium as two militaries came together to share strategy, culture and symbolic gifts.
This year, service members from the Singapore armed forces and the U.S military are training for global peacekeeping operations at the Regional Training Institute in Waimanalo, Hawaii. The two groups have a long tradition of working together in this exercise, called Tiger Balm, the longest-running bilateral exercise in Singapore armed forces history.
Providing instructional material for the combined group were subject matter experts from both militaries who shared both strategic information and operational anecdotes for the mixed group.
The different perspectives and experiences provide the true value of Tiger Balm, said Staff Sgt. Janile L. King, non-commissioned officer in the personnel section.
The sharing of gifts has a place in almost every culture in the world and the symbolism of this act conveys a sense of goodwill. French sociologist Marcel Mauss said in his popular work ‘the gift’ that the act of gift giving transfers a small piece of the giver’s own identity to the other person.
Many involved in the exercise chose gifts that meant something personal to them.
“I chose a Myrtlewood pen for my counterpart because we write a lot in our job and Myrtlewood grows in Oregon. It’s also a functional gift, something that can be used,” said King.
In this ongoing partnership, military members attend the exercise with open minds and attitudes focused on learning from one another. As the soldiers exchanged tokens of friendship, they shared a bit of themselves as a start to a meaningful exchange lasting far beyond the exercise at hand.
“This is an excellent experience for personnel at all levels to learn from one another and to strengthen ties, professional and relational.” said Col. Lee Ngian Sang, chief of staff, 3rd Division, Singapore armed forces.