SAMAESAN, Thailand (Feb. 12, 2009) – --
As the rear hatch of the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter opens, the Marines begin fast pace striking with precision accuracy and continue relentlessly for the next hour. With little room for error, the Marines and sailors “fastrope” out of the helicopter, secure the landing zone perimeter, and form up in teams to push inland toward the target, a reinforced mock terrorist stronghold.
The Marines and sailors with Kilo Co. 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, trained alongside Royal Thai Marines by conducting helicopter raid training Feb. 11, during Exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
“The purpose of Cobra Gold as a whole is to work together during operations and critique each other and show our strong suits,” said Lt. Col. Stuart Lockhart, the Executive Officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “It allows us to work together. We can learn, and they can teach us their jungle tactics.”
Throughout Cobra Gold ‘09, three companies with 3/5 conduct separate mock raids, from Lima (boat) company, India (track) company as well as Kilo with the “helo” raid. Each specific event involved intricate planning and execution corroborated by both Royal Thai and U.S Marines.
“The importance of this bilateral training is huge for both sides. The cross-pollination and expertise the Royal Thai Marines have in this environment is very helpful and good for training,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Liang, the commander of Co. I, 3rd platoon. “We share expertise with each other, as well as tactics, techniques and procedures.”
The mission was simple, close in on the mock enemy stronghold and “eliminate” the terrorists. The effort required to execute the mission was another story.
“The Marines know how to raid and take down the enemy in a building; that’s what they are use to. Its getting to the target here that’s tough,” said Sgt. Mark Hamett, a squad leader with Co I. and opposition forces platoon sergeant. “Jungle maneuvering and jungle tactics is what the Thai Marines excel at, and they helped the (U.S.) Marines with that every step of the way.”
Once the Royal Thai Marines helped the Marines and sailors of the MEU push toward the objective through heavy vegetation to clear the stronghold, the U.S. Marines displayed their knowledge and experience.
“The Marines with 3/5 are proficient in clearing buildings because of previous deployments to Iraq, so we can teach the Thai Marines some tactics with that, as they teach us jungle tactics,” said Hamett, a San Diego native.
As Cobra Gold ’09 progresses, the Royal Thai Marines will continue to work with and teach the Marines and sailors with the MEU many tactics for use in a jungle environment – something many Marines haven’t had the opportunity to experience. Cobra Gold ’09 is a bilateral exercise focusing on military interoperability training and strengthening the long-standing partnership between the Royal Thai and U.S. Armed Forces.