JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Service members from the Royal Thai Armed Forces arrived at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Feb. 4, 2014, as part of the beginning stages of Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.
Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, were there to greet their Pacific Region partners. The Thai service members were taken to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they would begin a 10-day visit focusing on partnership between the two countries.
“We have close partnerships with several nations,” said Maj. Jeremy Riegel, the executive officer of 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne). “This past summer, we did Talisman Saber with the Australians, we’ve done several school exchanges with the Indian Army and the Thais are one partnership we’ve had over several years where we do regular exchanges of their paratroopers and our paratroopers. [We] not only cross-train each other, but we become more familiar with the customs and cultures within the Pacific theater, in this case Thailand specifically.”
After briefly settling in, the Royal Thai service members received training on the Spartans' airborne procedures while inside a C-17 Globemaster III and a class on basic airborne refresher training that included exiting a mock door, rigging their equipment and leaping from a 34-foot tower.
Once the Thai service members were trained and familiar with the American equipment, Maj. Surachart Ruanwong and Maj. Paitoon Polsen, both assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group of the Royal Thailand Armed Forces, were identified as Jump Masters and conducted a Royal Thai Armed Forces Partnership Training Jump with approximately 200 Spartan paratroopers, Feb. 6, 2014.
Ruanwong said he had never seen such beautiful scenery.
“This is the first time I’ve jumped into Alaska, which is like jumping into an ice field,” said Ruanwong. “I was really excited to do this. Today I was the jumpmaster, [giving] the commands to the [troopers] to jump out of the aircraft.”
Ruanwong said the Spartan Brigade has been a gracious host.
“They [took] care of Thai soldiers that have been here really well,” he said. “We are really impressed that they take care of us so well. [They have been so very nice] and warm towards us.”
Ruanwong also said that the aircraft and parachute equipment are practically the same no matter where the location, although there were some differences.
“It’s just different [the way the troops] assemble, [the weather] elements and the ground. Everything with the procedure is the same.“
When asked how he felt jumping into a snowy drop-zone Ruanwong smiled. “My jump was very nice! [It was a] soft landing and good [parachute landing fall]!”
After the airborne operation, the Spartan paratroopers that participated were awarded the Thailand Parachutist Badge at the 4-25 IBCT Brigade headquarters in a special jump wing exchange ceremony.
The visiting Thai soldiers and Spartan paratroopers were invited to a “pot luck” social hour dinner at the Asian Alaskan Cultural Center Feb. 8, where they had the opportunity to meet and socialize with Asian Alaskans who live in Anchorage.
During their visit, the Thai service members enjoyed several activities around Anchorage, to include an Alaska Aces hockey game, dining at the local Moose’s Tooth Pizza, playing indoor soccer at the Anchorage Sports Dome and taking a helicopter ride to the Nike Summit Site to take pictures.
Lt. Cdr. Pinyo Rungroung, an operations officer with the naval special warfare command said the visit was a good experience for him and it was only the second time he’s ever seen snow.
“In my country; no snow,” Rungroung laughed.
“It’s a good experience for me to train with the U.S. Army [with] parachute jumping,” Rungroung said. “The way they jump is similar, but the way they defend is different. It’s a new experience for me as we learned how to survive in cold weather.”
Exercise Cobra Gold 2014, now in its 33rd iteration, demonstrates the U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand’s commitment to their long standing alliance, regional partnership, and prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific Region.