News: Cobra Gold 2011 ends
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
CAMP ERAWAN, Thailand — Soldiers from the Alaska-based 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment stood beside members of the Royal Thai Army’s 3-31st Infantry Regiment, Kings Guard for a ceremony marking the official end of training for Exercise Cobra Gold 2011 here.
The ceremony took place on the same field where Cobra Gold started for the U.S. Army paratroopers almost two weeks ago.
The guest VIP for the event was Maj. Gen. Kampanart Ruthdit, commanding general for the Royal Thai Army’s 1st Division.
As the leadership of the Thai and U.S. battalions stood at attention for the commanding Thai general, members of both armies read aloud a mission brief summarizing the training during Cobra Gold 2011.
After a Thai officer finished the brief in his language, Capt. John Parks, assistant battalion executive officer for the 3-509th echoed it in English.
"Sir, 1,338 Thai and 194 U.S. have been trained during Cobra Gold 11 for a combined total of 1,432 successfully trained, Sir," Parks announced.
As ceremonial U.S. and Thai flags were lowered and the soldiers dismissed from the parade field, some from both nations lingered to take pictures with personal cameras and speak with each other in broken languages as they tried to use the few words they had picked up during the weeks of training together.
"Being here has given me new perspective on the locals of the area," said Pfc. Nicoles Hebert, a rifleman for 1st Platoon, A Co., 3-509th, who said he loves politics and current events. "We're not the only ones with conflict."
Others in the company focused more on the social aspect of their time in Thailand.
"I loved how we could relate to the Thai army guys so easily," said Pfc. Sergei Hudson, a squad automatic weapon gunner for 2nd Platoon, A Co., 3-509th. "They all had similar views. I guess it's because of that military mindset we all have. But I liked the locals too. I loved when we got to go out into town, everyone was so friendly."
In addition to the training aspects of Cobra Gold, the exercise is intended to bring cultures together and expand on existing friendships. During their time together U.S. and Thai paratroopers have traded jokes, tales of the field, unit patches and cuisine. Photos of family members and favorite hangouts have been passed around at gatherings of off-duty troops from both countries, making the cultural gap just a little narrower.