News: Downed pilot recovery training enhances aviation interoperability
Story by Lance Cpl. Brandon Suhr
NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Kingdom of Thailand — Thai and U.S. service members conducted a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel training exercise Feb. 15 at Nakhon Ratchasima, Kingdom of Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
Primarily, the training was conducted so the service members could maintain their knowledge and learn from each other in the event that they become a downed pilot.
“The event went very well. The American and Thai counterparts worked well with each other, sharing information about the radio and also about navigation through the local area,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Grey H. Pickerill, an aero medical safety officer with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “Our Thai counterpart was letting us know about some of the local dangers (in the surrounding area) and helping us get to where we needed to go.”
The TRAP exercise demonstrated the overall commitment of Thailand and the U.S. to working together in areas of common interest for the betterment of regional security.
“It’s very good to have training together with the U.S.,” said Thai airman Flight Lt. Wuthisak Nga-Sa-Nga, a pilot with Squadron 401, Royal Thai Air Force. “I was able to learn different techniques from them during this training.”
Exercises such as Cobra Gold allow the U.S. to collaborate with partner countries to achieve mutual security goals, address shared concerns, and continue to develop and enhance relationships.
“A big key to this training was integration with our Thai counterparts,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Travis E. Keeney, a pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, MAG-36. “Integration is the key to successful partnerships and working in a joint environment.”
A considerable amount of planning from both the Thai and U.S. went into coordination for the TRAP mission, requiring a detailed exchange of training procedures.
“I thought this was a great success, and I look forward to integrating with the joint environment even more and working with our Thai brethren on future missions like this,” said Keeney. “We’ve had a lot of good points come out of our brief and planning. That’s really the key; a lot of planning but with speed and execution.”
The pilots navigated their way through fields and around local areas to find their designated landing zone for pick up.
“They hiked over a mile, and they managed to hit the landing zone spot on to find the aircraft,” said Pickerill. “The pilots rarely ever get to use this training, but it’s very effective when it’s conducted.”
With this being the first time the pilots conducted this training, the two shared many experiences and lessons learned together.
“This is a very interesting thing, to train together like this with the Americans,” said Nga-Sa-Nga. “I think we were successful to find the rescue team and hopefully we can conduct many exercises together like this in the future.”