USS ESSEX (March 3, 2010) – --
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) recently completed Cobra Gold 2010 (CG’ 10) with Royal Thailand forces and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine Corps.
From Feb. 1-11, Marines and sailors from the MEU’s ground combat element (GCE), 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines (BLT 2/7), logistics element, Combat Logistics Battalion 31 (CLB-31), and aviation combat element (ACE), Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 Reinforced (HMM-265 REIN) and Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311), conducted various training events with the Royal Thai Armed Forces and ROK Marines.
Training included a mock amphibious assault, helicopter raid, boat raid, Noncombatant Evacuation Operation and chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) defense training as well as Jungle Warfare Training; all focused on strengthening the professional partnership of the three armed forces.
“The purpose of Cobra Gold was two fold. First and foremost it was an opportunity to train alongside our Royal Thai and Republic of Korea armed forces counterparts in order to increase our interoperability and become more familiar with each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures in a joint and combined environment,” said Col. Paul L. Damren, 31st MEU Commanding Officer. “Secondly, the MEU conducted its semi-annual certification exercise or CERTEX; a ten day event that simulated the stresses and tempo of contingency operations while a team of evaluators from III Marine Expeditionary Force assessed the MEU’s ability to conduct all of its mission essential tasks in accordance with published standards.”
During the mock amphibious assault, CG ’10 became a tri-lateral exercise as the Republic of Korea Marine Corps joined the Royal Thai and U.S. servicemembers.
“We frequently train with these countries on a bilateral basis, but this was the first time in history that naval forces from all three nations trained together in an amphibious exercise,” said Damren. “Not only does it reflect a common commitment to excellence in amphibious operations, it was especially rewarding to see the look of pride and satisfaction on the faces of the entire landing force following this successful event.”
HMM-265 REIN based out of Okinawa, Japan provided troop transport support during the amphibious assault, NEO, and Helo raids. VMA-311 based out of Yuma, Az., provided air operation support to include simulated close air support during the amphibious assault and the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX). Both elements comprised the 31st MEU ACE.
The ACE proved to be a pivotal part of CG ’10 providing the MEU with exceptional air support during all major events it participated in, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Taylor, HMM-265 REIN Commanding Officer.
“The Royal Thai Marine Corps and Navy are highly skilled and very motivated. It is always a pleasure to train with such a professional group,” Taylor said. “The training is mutually beneficial. The addition of our Republic of Korea partners was a bonus.”
The exercise also provided the ground combat element, BLT 2/7, with a unique experience. The desert-based infantry element, based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., had an opportunity to train and deploy as the 31st MEU’s BLT. This was the first time the unit has deployed as a BLT and the second time it has deployed as an amphibious landing force since World War II.
The BLT trained in various scenarios foreign to the unit to include jungle training and a mock amphibious raid. The training concluded with a live-fire exercise that was led by the Royal Thai.
“The culmination of the bi-lateral training was a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise during which BLT 2/7 synchronized the effects of the MEU’s aviation assets with its artillery, mortars, light armored vehicles, machine guns, anti-armor missiles, breaching charges, and the small arms fire and maneuver that included two Thai units,” said Lt. Col. John M. Reed, BLT 2/7 Commanding Officer.
The training during CG’ 10 emphasized the 31st MEU’s ability to respond as a force capable of rapid response with any emerging crisis that may occur in the operational region.
“Any time we get to train with our counterparts from different nations, it is extremely beneficial because we expect to address the most difficult security challenges in the region through a multilateral approach very similar to the way we trained during Cobra Gold,” Damren said. “The more we are able to train with our partners in realistic exercises like Cobra Gold, the better prepared we will be to deal with major contingencies such as large scale humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations wherever they may occur in theater.”