By Jason Smith
CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Hundreds of U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are gathered at a hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, as part of Cobra Gold 2011, a joint and multinational exercise that includes Thailand, the United States, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore as participating nations.
In this 30th recurrence of Cobra Gold, a group of Thai Army soldiers and volunteers are tasked to keep all exercise participants safe by being constantly present and ready to handle any security situation.
“I’m very proud of this job,” said Thai Army 1st Sgt. Waranut Prasck, a second-year Cobra Gold guard, through an interpreter.
“It’s a very special honor. There are very important people from many nations here.”
Prasck and his counterpart, Pipat Kangatitan, a volunteer, were charged with guarding the sixth floor Feb. 11, 2011. According to the two guards, one professional soldier will often work with a volunteer. In addition to multiple guards on each floor, there is more support ready to respond if needed.
“We have help available from the local military police, and the local police are here to help too,” said Prasck. “Our supervisors will respond if anything happens also. We have sufficient people to handle anything.”
Prasck said one of the hardest posts to work is the front door of the hotel. Many of the Cobra Gold participants gather each day at the hotel to plan the exercise. Normal hotel customers are also in and out.
“The entrance is difficult,” said Prasck. “You have to always be alert and very stately. You are concerned about security and also being professional with all of the people who enter the hotel.”
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Laura Rains, a Cobra Gold participant stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, said she knows having Thai guards at a location in Thailand makes sense.
“I feel safe,” said Rains, 13th Air Force A1 functional area Manager. “This is their environment. They know what’s out of place. I don’t.”
Cobra Gold 2011 consists of a staff exercise, humanitarian assistance events and a field training exercise. The event is scheduled for Feb. 7-18 throughout Thailand.
The Thai guards at the hotel are scheduled to stay in place as long as their multinational partners are still here.
For more information about Cobra Gold 2011, visit www.marines.mil/cobragold2011 or www.facebook.com/exercisecobragold.