When 1st Lt. Kunal D. Desai found out that the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team was selected to participate in Yudh Abhyas 2013, a U.S. Army Pacific sponsored annual bilateral exercise between the U.S. and Indian armies, he knew he’d be a key player contributing to the success of the mission.

Not only would Desai be able to share his knowledge about the U.S. Army he gained from attending officer candidate school and from a combat deployment in Afghanistan, but he’d be able to relate to the visiting Indian officers in ways his colleagues might not be able to — culturally.

The fire support officer for 1st BCT’s 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment was born in a small town outside Mumbai, India.

While he has been assimilated into American society in the more than 15 years he has spent away from his native land, Desai still speaks Hindi and holds fast to important facets of his culture.

“I’m Indo-American,” Desai said. “I may be a little more liberal than I was before, but I still have a mix of Indian and American values. What’s good in American culture, I take from it and what’s good in Indian culture, I take from it and (I) apply it to myself.”

Desai said his participation in YA began long before the Indian soldiers and paratroopers from the 99th Mountain Brigade set foot on Fort Bragg, May 1.

There were documents to translate and cultural awareness classes to prepare. The officer said he was also tapped to wear “a lot of hats” throughout the exercise in the tactical operations center and field settings.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said. “I’ve learned quite a bit. We’ve taken, but we’ve also given back in joint cooperation.”

Desai said from his perspective the American and Indian forces developed a solid relationship in two-week’s time — a partnership he hopes will continue between 1st BCT and the Indian army in the years to come.

“This type of exercise will continue to happen,” he said. “We’re building onto a future partnership (and) a better relationship … that will just bring the two countries together.”