SUKHOTHAI PROVINCE, Kingdom of Thailand – Royal Thai and U.S. Marines and soldiers conducted a combined arms live-fire exercise Feb. 21 in Ban Dan Lan Hoi, Sukhothai province, Kingdom of Thailand, marking the conclusion of exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
“(Cobra Gold) is critical to building our multinational coordination, our interoperability with all of our partners in the region, and to allow us to collectively respond to crises and protect the peace and prosperity of all our people,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
At the beginning of CG 13, field training ramped up with an amphibious assault demonstration—showcasing the combined capabilities of attack jets, helicopters, landing craft and small boats in Chonburi province Feb. 14.
As field training consistently increased throughout the duration of the exercise, the collaboration of Thai and U.S. forces culminated with the execution of the CALFEX. The Thai-U.S. ground force assaulted and seized a simulated objective while other military assets provided synchronized combat support to reinforce those forces. A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey conducted flyovers, artillery units rained down fires, and Thai and U.S. aircraft dropped ordnance on predetermined targets.
“These exercises emphasize working together for a common goal,” said U.S. Marine Col. John E. Merna, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “The events included in the exercise increase mission readiness in the Western Pacific and enable participating nations to be more capable in response to crises.”
Both Thai and U.S. service members agree they learned much more from each other than just basic tactics, techniques and procedures. Working together in areas of common interest and mutual cooperation between partner nations was key in accomplish the objectives of the overall exercise.
“It's been a good opportunity working with the Royal Thai Armed Forces,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Benjamin J. Vanzytveld, the lead Cobra Gold planner for the 31st MEU. “It's given us the opportunity to get to know them as individuals, understand their culture a little better, and understand how they operate so we can better integrate their efforts with our efforts in the future.”
The live-fire event, which was planned by the U.S. armed forces, included the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Royal Thai Armed Forces demonstrating the true spirit of multilateral cooperation and commitment.
“The U.S. and Thailand have a very strong relationship,” said Royal Thai Army Maj. Gen. Wittaya Wachirakul, exercise deputy director. “We hope we will have a chance to expand our interoperability and strengthen each other (capabilities) even more in the future.”
Also, in attendance at the CALFEX were Royal Thai Gen. Worapong Sangnetra, deputy chief of Defense Forces for the RTArF, and U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Terry G. Robling, commander of U.S. Marine Corp Forces, Pacific.
As the largest multinational exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, Cobra Gold has demonstrated the commitment of partner nations to enhancing interoperability of military forces, strengthening of regional relationships, and the promotion of security and cooperation within the region.