News: Tri-national Marine force assaults Thai beach
Story by Cpl. Jonathan Wright
HAT YAO, Thailand — Elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit alongside forces from the Republic of Korea and Kingdom of Thailand conducted an amphibious assault here, Feb. 10. The assault was part of exercise Cobra Gold 2012, an annual multilateral training in which various Asia-Pacific nations execute combined military operations.
The exercise combined the amphibious assault capabilities of Company B, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st MEU, as well as companies from the Royal Thai Marines and the Republic of Korea Marines.
“When I first heard of Cobra Gold, it didn’t seem like big of a deal, but once I got here I started understanding that working with the Thai and South Korean Marines helps us build our friendship, and that is an important role in us becoming stronger allies,” said Cpl. Jerry Willis III, a rifleman with B Company, BLT 1/4 and a native of Everett, Wash. “These exercises are a good way to build our camaraderie throughout the different countries, which is helpful for when we want to conduct future exercises.”
The exercise started with a group of Thai parajumpers inserting for reconnaissance while Thai Marines landed on the beach in combat rubber raiding craft. Afterward, U.S. Marine F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets simulated bombing runs on the beach with the aid of pyrotechnics, heightening the training environment for those involved.
“Riding up in the AAVs and hearing the explosions go off pumped everyone up,” said Capt. Teerapon Lumyaisatit, a Royal Thai Marine. “It was a great experience to be doing so much realistic training alongside the other country’s Marines. It made us treat it like a real assault.”
Along the coast of the beach, two waves of AAVs splashed ashore and unloaded their Marine occupants, buddy-rushing up to the road and posting security alongside one another. South Koreans lay next to Americans who lay next to Thais as one unit, working together toward the same objective.
“No matter what country we’re from, we are all Marines in the end,” said Sgt. Joseph Kim, a Republic of Korea Marine. “I will be able to take the experiences from this exercise back to South Korea and share them with the new Marines.”
As the objective was completed and the beach taken, the Marines made their way back to their respective AAVs and returned to the sea. High-fives were spread throughout the nation’s Marines, exemplifying the success of the training between the various Marine Corps.
“We have participated in exercise Cobra Gold for 31 years,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, Jr., deputy commander, Multinational Force and commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It really brings together all the nations that contributed; participating nations come together and build teamwork and develop our capabilities together.”
Cobra Gold 2012 demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
“We’re out here to train alongside the Thai and Korean Marines, not train them up on tactics or how to employ weapons systems,” said 2nd Lt. Jacob Crockett, platoon commander with B Company, BLT 1/4 and a native of Vincent, Ind. “The main focus as to why we’re out her is to execute joint operations together, something that was a great success today.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.