News: Bats spread wings, fly to Thailand
Story by Lance Cpl. Cayce Nevers
IWAKUNI, Japan - Military personnel of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, Marine Air Control Squadron 4 Detachment B, Marine Aircraft Group 12 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 are slated to depart for Thailand within the next week to support Exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
Exercise Cobra Gold is an annual multinational exercise which allows military personnel to conduct bi-lateral and unitlevel training with the Thai Armed Forces, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. Throughout the training evolution, the participating squadrons will utilize Thai air-to-surface ranges, airspace and facilities, while exercising the squadron’s expeditionary capabilities. Squadrons will work to become proficient in air-to-surface exercises, daytime close air support and air interdiction.
Exercise Cobra Gold has become a yearly event in which Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni participates. This year marks the station’s 31st year performing Exercise Cobra Gold, working alongside Thai forces and experiencing the way flight operations are performed in other countries.
“Cobra Gold is the United States’ largest multinational exercise and a major tool to build and maintain U.S. alliances in the Pacific,” said Maj. John M. Baseel, Cobra Gold 2012 action officer. “It represents one of our major training exercises to conduct realistic air-to-ground training with the ground combat element of the 31st MEU and air-to-air training against dissimilar aircraft.”
The exercise is approximately a month-long training deployment which allows military personnel to deploy to regions where they can perform at 100 percent capability.
Cobra Gold 2012 is good for the Marines who go because not only do they train, but they also have the opportunity to experience a culture outside their own, said Baseel.
“They are given the opportunity to see Thai culture, which is world-renowned for friendliness,” said Baseel. “They are also afforded the opportunity to visit Thai temples and historic sites.”
The exercise will give the units an opportunity to conduct annual training needed in order to stay proficient in their jobs.
“I don’t believe there will be any negative impact,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Pritchard, VMFA-242 Sergeant major “Sometimes we become complacent in our jobs, because we can only do so many things. It will shake off any complacency the Marines may have. The Marines, they get to deploy, they get to do something they love, and sometimes a deployment even re-energizes them.”
While training deployments may seem like they go smoothly, there is always at least one barrier or challenge Marines must overcome.
“One challenge we face every year is you go with a new crew,” said Pritchard. “People rotate in and out, so each year half the Marines haven’t been to Thailand before, nor have they been deployed.”
Throughout Cobra Gold 2012, the military personnel participating in the exercise will use the large training ranges offered in Thailand, which are not offered here. They will also work to maintain good relations with Thailand and other allied nations in the Pacific region.