BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand – During the field training portion of exercise Cobra Gold 2013 in Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand, from Feb. 11 to 22, the primary focus is bilateral training between Royal Thai and U.S. Marines.
However, it is a little more than just training for the U.S. Marines with Combat Assault Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“We are here to build new roads and improve upon existing roads around the camp’s firing ranges,” said U.S. Marine Capt. T. Grayson Ernst, a combat engineer officer and current operations director for the unit. “In Okinawa, there really isn’t land available for the heavy equipment operators to conduct this type of training. Here, we can build roads and develop the land at a much larger scale.”
The engineers are building five kilometers of new range access road and improving upon eight kilometers of existing roads on the camp. They are also building an explosive ordnance demolition site.
“By doing this, we are essentially tripling the size of the training areas here, which in turn drastically increases our training capabilities,” said Ernst.
At the end of the training exercise, the expectation is to have durable range access that will survive not just this iteration, but possibly years to follow, added Ernst.
It is vital to have reliable road access throughout the entire training area, not just for convenience, but also for safety like in a casualty evacuation scenario, explained Ernst. With proper road access, a casualty can be transported to get the immediate medical attention he or she needs well within the time frame required to save a life.
“The purpose behind building the roads is bigger than just the Cobra Gold mission,” said Ernst. “It creates opportunities for more versatile training to share with the Royal Thai Marines, and it helps better establish a presence with our allies by improving their forces and capabilities.”
There are two underlying objectives for this project, according to U.S. Sgt. Dennis J. Deforest, an engineer equipment operator with CAB and the project manager. “First, is to give the Royal Thai Marines better access to their training areas, and the second reason, is that it teaches the importance of working with our ally’s military, which—in turn—strengthens the bond between our countries.”
Throughout the project, the Royal Thai Marines’ engineering section has been assisting with manpower and heavy equipment.
“It is important for (the Royal Thai Marines) to assist in this effort,” said Royal Thai Marine Lt. Cmdr. Telone Tutason, camp commandant of BCK. “We are happy to have the (U.S. Marines) here to train with us because we learn so much and because we can teach them a lot about what it is like being in the remote areas of our country.”
In Thailand, it is incredibly important to minimize the impact people leave on the land because it is common belief that nature hold spiritual powers, continued Tutason. The U.S. Marines respect this and respect the land.
“The most difficult part about this project is being able to accomplish the mission with minimal resources and equipment,” said Deforest. “However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it teaches the (U.S.) Marines that we can build something spectacular out of nothing and that we can trust in our friends like the Royal Thai Marines to help us.”
Exercise Cobra Gold includes humanitarian and civic assistance projects, a staff exercise and field training exercises. Joint and multinational training is vital to maintaining the readiness and interoperability of all participating military forces.