By Cpl. Vanessa Jimenez
NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand - Royal Thai Air Force and U.S. Marine aircraft rescue firefighters conducted live-fire burn drills Feb. 21 at Wing One Royal Thai Air Force Base, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kingdom of Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2013.
The Thai firefighters are with Wing One, RTAF, and the U.S. Marines are assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The training was conducted to enhance the firefighter’s confidence and proficiency in their techniques, skills, gear and each other.
“The importance of this training is gaining more experience,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Joksam Graulau Santiago, an aircraft rescue firefighter with MWSS-172. “Getting hands on during training is essential. This way, when a real incident does happen the Marines will be confident, have the knowledge, and be able to do a really good job.”
During CG 13, the Marines fully integrated with RTAF firefighters, training together every day.
“We’re here to provide fire suppression and rescue capabilities for the air combat element and at the same time we’re here to do bilateral training with the Thai firefighters,” said Santiago. “It’s a really good experience, we got to teach them techniques, have them show us new techniques, and we received a lot of companionship from it. In a sense we’re becoming a family, it’s too bad it only lasts two weeks.”
Aircraft rescue firefighters are first responders to airfield emergencies, so they work close to the airfield to ensure they can be there in as little time as possible.
“We help make sure everything is safe and we secure all problems in the airfield,” said RTAF Sgt. Sakmassarat Thinnapat, aircraft rescue firefighter specialist. “We aren’t just looking out for the Thai, we cover the entire American and Thai team here.”
Aircraft rescue firefighters worked together to accomplish their mission, gaining lasting memories and building stronger bonds between members of the two allied nations.
“We take part in this training every year, and we’re very happy to have this exchange, experience and knowledge of training,” said Thinnapat. “I’m very happy to be here training with the U.S. Marines. I feel like we’ve become a family.”
CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, demonstrates U.S. commitment to their long-standing ally, the Kingdom of Thailand, and toward regional partnership, prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific region.