News: Thai, U.S. forces train to protect the skies during Cobra Gold 2009
Story by Lance Cpl. Daniel Flynn
By Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Flynn
III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs
UTAPHAO, Thailand – U.S. Marine Corps, Royal Thai Air Force and U.S. Air Force personnel participated in a large force exercise here Feb. 12 as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
Cobra Gold is an annual joint multi-national exercise focused on maintaining and improving military interoperability among its participants.
In general terms, the large force exercise is focused on air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training scenarios, allowing command and control personnel, air controllers, and pilots to gain experience and improve their tactical capabilities.
The exercise provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. and Thai forces to partner together in order to learn from one another and improve military interoperability.
"This training has allowed us to meet and work with other professional aviators," said Capt. Ernesto Howard, a pilot with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, a squadron comprising several two-seat F/A-18 Hornets that are serving under Marine Aircraft Group 36 for this exercise. "It has been good training from both the pilots' perspective and the perspective of working as peers."
The pilot's training scenario today started with an aerial refuel mission, and then it progressed into their F/A-18s dog-fighting through simulated combatants in route to their objective. Once they reached that point, the Hornets dropped inert ordinance and then fight their way back to the airfield where they launched, according to Howard.
Before the pilots launch, they receive several briefs, which allow them to effectively plan and execute their mission.
The U.S. Marine Corps pilots were also required to coordinate with Thai and U.S. Air Force personnel, stationed in another part of Thailand more than 150 miles away.
"The most challenging part of this exercise is that we can't talk to the Thai and U.S. Air Forces in person because they are so far away," said Howard. "Although, the language barrier does not hinder our ability to work together," he added.
"This is a unique experience, being able to go to another country and train with their military," said, New Orleans native Capt. Cody Buras, an F/A-18 pilot with VMFA (AW) 242.
As one of the only permanently stationed squadrons on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, VMFA (AW) 242 engages in a rigorous exercise schedule that takes them across the Asia-Pacific region annually.