HAT YAO BEACH, Kingdom of Thailand --
Parachute jumpers swiftly descended from 8,000 ft. high as the ocean below exploded with more than 150 pounds of explosives. AV-8B Harrier jets rained fire from the sky and amphibious assault vehicles plowed through the water to take the beach.
Royal Thai and Republic of Korea service members, along with U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, came together to create a multinational task force and conduct an amphibious landing exercise, Feb. 10.
The amphibious landing was in support of Cobra Gold 2011, the thirtieth installment of one of the largest land-based, joint, combined military training exercises in the world. Reconnaissance Marines coasted through the water in combat rubber raiding crafts and were first to land on the beach and secure the area.
Moments later paratroopers with the Royal Thai Navy could be seen gliding through the sky, steering themselves to the landing zone near the beach. The jumpers left the aircraft at approximately 8,000 ft., free fell until about 2,500 ft., then opened their chutes preparing to land.
AV-8B Harrier jets from Marine Attack Squadron 211, 31st MEU were next on the scene and cleared the way for the ground element by providing firepower.
Amphibious assault vehicles came storming out of the water onto the beach front, where Royal Thai, Republic of Korea and U.S. Marines quickly exited the vehicles and continued the assault on foot.
Soon after, at a nearby landing zone, CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and Royal Thai Navy SH-70 helicopters unloaded another force of Marines to support their counterparts on the beach.
“This is an opportunity for us to work with our partner nations in the area; everything from high level staff officers working together to individual units on the ground, building those relationships for the future,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Seibel, 31st MEU executive officer. “This training is what the Marine Corps is all about, from our very foundation. It’s an amphibious operation, instream offload, getting dirty, doing what Marines joined the Marine Corps to do.”
According to Col. Andrew MacMannis, 31st MEU commanding officer, the operation took several weeks of coordination and intensive planning but has proven to be very beneficial.
“It has been extremely productive,” MacMannis said. “The fact that we get to know the Thais and our counterparts, and how they do their business and we do ours and how we integrate both to do training together; it has been very enlightening to all of us.”
Cobra Gold 2011 improves participating nations’ ability to conduct relevant and dynamic training, while strengthening relationships between the militaries and local communities.
Thailand and the U.S. enjoy a long and successful history of cooperation across a large number of issues, including security, law enforcement, public health, and trade and investment. The nations have been allies and have shared many of the same democratic ideals since the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed in 1833.