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    Cobra Gold 18: U.S. and Royal Thai chaplains connect spiritually

    Cobra Gold 18: U.S. and RTAF chaplains connect spiritually

    Photo By Senior Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes | The Supreme Patriarch of Thailand gives a blessing at the Wat Ratchabophit Temple, a...... read more read more

    The image is legendary. Marines crash through waves with their landing craft, coming to a stop securely on the beach head. It is what secured victory in World War II, and it is also what inspired a 12-year-old boy from the Rayong province of Thailand to join the Navy as a chaplain. Walking along the beach one day in 1988, he became enthralled by all the action. He enjoyed watching then, and many years later he would take part in the same exercise known as Cobra Gold.

    Lieutenant Aroon Seeda, a Buddhist Navy chaplain from Victorville, California, had his life changed that day. He was able to meet some of the Marines, and told them that he was hungry. This lead to them giving him a Meal-Ready-to-Eat.

    Days later, he was able to take some of the Marines on a tour of a buddhist temple, and from that day forward, he was inspired to work hard on learning to speak English and to understand more about American culture.

    This year, for the first time, Seeda succeeded in arranging a meeting of U.S. and Royal Thai Armed Forces chaplains with the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, the country's top Buddhist leader, Feb. 12, 2018, during the 37th iteration of Cobra Gold, 30 years after Seeda interacted with Marines on the beach.

    The meeting included Seeda, Captain James Johnson, a Christian Navy chaplain from Lake Park, Minnesota, U.S. Navy personnel and an assortment of RTAF chaplains.

    “Today is important because I am not coming back here visiting the Supreme Patriarch as a Thai person,” said Seeda. “I am coming back as a member of the United States Navy. We are trying to connect the bridge of Thai and United States culture, and he is the center and high point of spirituality in the country.”

    Johnson clarified that this is the first time for any interaction like this, and how truly important it is to have made the connection of spirituality between cultures.

    “This being the 37th iteration of Cobra Gold, every single one has built on the previous one, and this time we really made a jump by having Chaplain Seeda help us meet up with the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand for the first time,” said Johnson. "So for this Cobra Gold we have started a new conversation between the U.S. and Thailand to further relations.”

    During the meeting, Johnson, Seeda and other Sailors greeted the Supreme Patriarch with gifts, spoke with him, asked questions and shared many laughs.

    Seeda said being welcomed by the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand will hopefully plant a seed of happiness and understanding within people from both countries, which is more important than anything else to build a strong relationship.

    “The spiritual relationship was left behind for a while, but it is very important in Thailand, because the people respect the Supreme Patriarch,” said Seeda. “Even the king himself bows to his holiness. This opens the door for us to have a deeper relationship with RTAF chaplains, which means we will be able to do better community relations projects. ”

    There are many ways to build a connection with allied countries, and this day a new road is paved between the U.S. and Thailand

    “It is a whole new experience for the Thai Military and Chaplain division,” said Royal Thai Army Captain Suchat Sommart, a chaplain from Kamphanget, Thailand. “I had a chance to learn and widen my point of view today. I am more connected to the U.S. chaplains now.”

    In a world built on communication platforms, it is important to have as many levels as possible, especially during military exercises this large. That is why Seeda’s success in arranging the meeting is such an accomplishment.

    “An exercise of this magnitude throws all sorts of lines of communication across,” said Johnson. “We are communicating with allies on so many different levels and religion is a critical line of communication.”

    The Supreme Patriarch shared laughs and jokes during the meeting, and at the end he presented the U.S. and Thai service members with a coin as a gift. He then gave a blessing to all of the RTAF and U.S. service members in his presence. The blessing was for success during Exercise Cobra Gold 2018 and for all the personnel involved. During this blessing, some service members said that the power in the room was strong, and the feeling of joy and strength within everyone was elevated.

    Cobra Gold 18 is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand and runs from Feb. 13-23 with seven full participating nations.



    Date Taken: 02.12.2018
    Date Posted: 02.15.2018 10:03
    Story ID: 265790
    Location: BANGKOK, TH 
    Hometown: VICTORVILLE, CA, US

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