BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand – Royal Thai and U.S. Marine engineer construction teams joined forces Feb. 11-21 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand for Exercise Cobra Gold.
In its 33rd iteration, Cobra Gold is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, what might not come to mind is the planning and preparing for such large-scale training exercises like Cobra Gold, according to Chief Warrant Officer Ben Moulden, an engineer equipment officer with Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“In order for the Thais and (U.S.) Marines to train properly they need a training range,” said Moulden. “Last year, (CAB and their Thai Marine counterparts), expanded the training area by nearly (300 percent), so that this year, and for the years to come, significantly more training can happen.”
Last year, the CAB Marines worked with their Thai counterparts to build new roads and improve upon existing roads, which is how they were able to increase the size of the training area. This year, the engineer construction teams focused on fixing other roads in areas that were eroded from the rainy season, while also adding an approximately four acre landing zone for aerial-insert training evolutions.
“While (Cobra Gold) is a training exercise, this is real work for us too,” said Moulden. “A lot of our training requirements are actually met by doing expeditionary road work like this.”
Ultimately, the purpose of the U.S. and Thai engineer construction teams’ presence at Ban Chan Krem is to prepare the training area for the culminating event, which is a combined arms live-fire exercise, according to Moulden.
“One major endeavor we took on was improving upon and creating 11 crossings throughout the maneuver area,” said Sgt. Randle A. Day, an engineer equipment operator with CAB. “These crossings will assist the mobility of Assault Amphibious Vehicles, tanks and other tactical vehicles during the CALFEX portion of Cobra Gold.”
During the field training exercise, forces from Thailand, the U.S. and the Republic of Korea will conduct training designed to enhance interoperability and strengthen regional relationships.
“We enjoy working with the (U.S.) Marines on engineering projects like this,” said Royal Thai Marine Master Chief Petty Officer Prasitchai Poonkasaem, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge for the Thai engineer construction team. “It is the same for us as it is for the (U.S.) Marines; although it is a training (environment), this is real work for us also.”
“This project is good for us and the Thais for a few reasons,” said Day. “It’s good because it gives everyone who helped out a sense of accomplishment and because most of what we’re doing is permanent, which means the Thais can get a lot more out of the training they do here.”