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Photo Information

(From left) Japan, Kingdom of Thailand and U.S. flags are displayed to represent the participating nations during a non-combatant evacuation operation, Feb. 12. Royal Thai military, the Japanese Self-Defense Force and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in the NEO, conducted during Cobra Gold 2011. Cobra Gold 2011 ensures the region is adequately prepared for humanitarian disasters, such as the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

Photo by Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Partner nations train for real-world threats

12 Feb 2011 | Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

At any given moment, Americans in third-world countries can be in dangerous situations and may need to be evacuated immediately. But evacuating them might not be easy. They could be in an area under enemy fire and have very little time to escape. U.S. forces must be prepared to efficiently move citizens to a safe location and in some cases can be responsible for partner nations’ citizens as well.

The Kingdom of Thailand hosted a noncombatant evacuation operation involving the Royal Thai military, Japanese Self-Defense Force and Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during exercise Cobra Gold 2011, Feb. 12.

CG ’11 is the 30th iteration of the exercise and the first time the JSDF has been a full participant in the exercise.

Each nation provided service members to execute the training and evacuees of each nationality were processed simultaneously.

 Japan, Thailand, and U.S. military services trained together in this exercise, and were able to learn from the partnership.

“We have been able to work alongside the U.S. before, but this is an excellent opportunity to train with the Royal Thai military as well,” said Japan Air Force Staff Sgt. Satoshi Moriimoto. “We can use this event to find our strengths and weaknesses.”

During a NEO an evacuation control center is established and consists of six stations; receiving, search, administrative processing, embarkation and detention.

Evacuees are first brought to a receiving area and are given a short briefing about how to quickly and efficently move through the process. They are then searched to make sure they are not carrying any weaponry. Next they continue to processing, where they are asked to filled out nessary paperwork. Once the forms are completed the evacuees wait to be loaded onto to military transportation, in this case CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters of the 31st MEU, landing craft utility of the U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy, landing craft air cushioned of the U.S. Navy.

If at anytime the evacuees become hostile or cause trouble for the processors, military policemen and other security service members are trained to detain the individual and bring them to the detention section.

“This NEO was especially important because we had three partner nations participating,” said Capt. Anucha Iamsuro, Royal Thai Navy Amphibious Task Force commander. “With our neighbors participating in these exercises, it will only better prepare everyone for the future.”

Lance Cpl. Mykel Stanley, a military policeman with CLB-31, said these training evolutions and rehearsals help the likely hood of exceeding the mission goals when called upon.

“If all runs smoothly we should be able to push as many as 100 evacuees through the ECC an hour,” Stanley said. “Training allows us to recognize our faults and make corrections for future operations.”

Cobra Gold 2011 and this NEO training also helps to ensure the region is adequately prepared for natural disasters and follow-on humanitarian assistance operations, such as the relief provided after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit