News: Hanuman Guardian 2013 beings during 180 years of U.S., Thai alliance
Story by Staff Sgt. Kyle Richardson
FORT THANARAT, Thailand – Three Thai and three U.S. flags waved in the wind. Accumulating rain clouds provided shade for the formations. Nearly 400 U.S. military personnel with the U.S. Army Pacific Command and Royal Thai Army soldiers stood on the parade field in front of the Fort Thanarat Infantry Center Headquarters gathering for an opening ceremony signifying a long-term partnership, prosperity, and security in the Asia-Pacific region, June 17.
The ceremony marks the official beginning of the second annual bilateral Army-to-Army exercise, Hanuman Guardian. The co-hosted exercise comes during the 180th year of the alliance between Thailand and the U.S. As the two armies work together during this training exercise, Hanuman Guardian 2013 will challenge the Royal Thai Army with realistic training, military readiness and enhance relations between the two forces.
"We're part of a USARPAC training engagement exercise program," said Col. Steven Pate, a DeLand, Fla. native, and exercise commander for Hanuman Guardian 2013. "This is the second year for this particular exercise. It's kind of still in its infancy stage, but I think we're establishing the trend for the future for Hanuman Guardian. It's a great honor to be able to represent the United States with our Thai counterparts and I'm looking forward to a good exercise."
To start the ceremony, the guest speakers Brig. Gen. Chris Gentry, the deputy commanding general of sustainment for Eighth Army and Maj. Gen. Apichai Hongthong, the commanding general of the infantry center participated in a wreath laying ceremony symbolizing the prospering relations between the U.S. and Thai forces. The wreath was laid at the feet of the Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat statue. Paying tribute to Field Marshal Thanarat at the beginning of Hanuman Guardian signifies his contributions in reestablishing the Army-to-Army partnership between both the U.S. and Thai during World War II.
"Hanuman Guardian presents a great opportunity to partner with the Royal Thai Army and one of the reasons why we're presenting a wreath for Thanarat, who help to establish this relationship many years ago," said Pate. "It's a great honor to join the Thai Army leaders in paying tribute to a military hero."
During the course of the 10-day training exercise, the RTA will provide humanitarian assistance to several communities and increase their disaster response capabilities. They will also train on improving aviation maintenance procedures, small unit mounted and dismounted infantry tactics, counter-improvised explosive devices, as well as expand on lifesaving medical skills. Also throughout the course of the exercise, units from the Washington National Guard will train the RTA soldiers and leaders on ground and air, search and rescue capabilities.
"Part of Hanuman Guardian 13 is to teach the Thai army how to do mountain rescue work, which will include high-angle work that requires them to lower people and litters down cliffs, then raising them back up on rope systems," said one of the special forces instructors. "The Thais are very serious and very motivated, they pick up the technical skills very quickly. Plus they work together and with us very well."
For one of the culminating events during Hanuman Guardian 2013, the RTA will run a staff exercise. The staff exercise will help them enhance their skill in staff planning and execution skills.
"I think the exercise has gone through a very extensive planning phase alongside with the Royal Thai Army so I foresee an excellent exercise coming out of this," said Brig. Gen. Chris Gentry, deputy commanding general for sustainment for Eighth Army. "There are a lot of cooperative events going on here that furthers our friendship with the Thai Army and I think it's an outstanding example of what two nations that have an outstanding relationship can do together just out of sheer cooperation and respect for each other. I think it's important to keep the Hanuman Guardian exercise going. It's not as large as the Cobra Gold exercise, but it also creates a more intimate experience between us and the Thai Army."
With the start of Hanuman Guardian 2013, the RTA and U.S. forces were ready to train and expand on their technical skills. However, before they would get dirty in the field, they conducted a sports day to help initiate their teamwork. The two forces established an equal mix of Thai and U.S. teams to play volleyball, tug of war and soccer.
With Hanuman Guardian 2013 underway, the RTA and U.S. forces prepare to learn from one another, get dirty, and walk away with a stronger bond with the U.S. longest allies in the Asia-Pacific region.