Kaur Sisters are Pride of California Air National Guard

LOS ANGELES, California—Indian American sisters Balreet and Jasleen Kaur Khaira are the California Air National Guard’s secret weapons when it came to India. Staff Sgt. Balreet Kaur Khaira and Sgt. Jasleen Kaur Khaira were part of a 12-soldier Cal Guard contingent at exercise Yudh Abhyas 2014, which took place Sept. 17-30 at Ranikhet Cantonment, India.

The Kaur sisters served on the staff for the exercise, but also acted as interpreters and cultural liaisons helping U.S. and Indian soldiers overcome language barriers and find common ground.

The annual Yudh Abhyas exercise is sponsored by the U.S. Army Pacific Command. Each year, it alternates between India and the United States. The exercise has a goal of increasing interoperability between the armies of the two countries. A big part of the exercise each year involves cultural exchanges intended to increase understanding between soldiers from two very different nations with different cultural backgrounds and military traditions.

The sisters were exceptional, model NCOs for the California National Guard,” said Col. Steven Buethe, the officer in charge of the Cal Guard contingent. “They exuded a positive image all the way around.”

“The Kaur sisters have been a living symbol of the strong bonds between India and the United States and a bridge between the U.S. and Indian armies,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Koop, who was responsible for assembling the Cal Guard team. “They are proud of both their ancestral homeland and their adopted homeland, and have worked tirelessly to help soldiers from both countries understand each other and grow towards mutual understanding and interoperability.”

Balreet Kaur enlisted in the California Army National Guard at 17. She said she wanted the challenge and experience of being an Army medic, which she felt would be an advantage later on in a civilian medical career. During her military career, she deployed to Iraq, while also managing to complete a bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Riverside. Her long-term goal is to enter medical school and become a physician. She serves as a platoon sergeant for C Company, 40th Brigade Support Battalion, out of Montebello, California.

Jasleen Kaur followed in her sister’s footsteps and enlisted in the Cal Guard as a medic while a student at U.C. Riverside. Currently, she serves as a squad leader with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 578th Brigade Engineer Battalion, out of Manhattan Beach, California. On the civilian side, she was recently hired as a registered nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and is studying to be a nurse practitioner.

“The Indian soldiers obviously love it that we’re Indian and in the U.S. Army,” Sgt. Jasleen Kaur Khaira said. “I think the biggest thing the Indian Army has learned from us is that we don’t just move to America and lose our roots. America is very diverse and you have all these populations that do keep their culture while still being part of the larger American culture. You can do both. You don’t have to get rid of one to participate in the other.”





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