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A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter takes off after inserting Royal Thai and U.S. Marines, during a mock helicopter raid, Feb. 13. The raid was a bilateral mission carried out by Royal Thai and U.S. Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, during exercise Cobra Gold 2011. For three decades, Thailand has hosted Cobra Gold, one of the largest land-based, joint, combined military training exercises in the world.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

Thai forces, 31st MEU conduct raid from air

13 Feb 2011 | Lance Cpl. Garry J. Welch

The Marines hymn describes the Marine Corps ability to “fight our countries battles in the air on land and sea.” The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, has been training to ensure the Marine Corps retains the ability to do just that.

Royal Thai Special Forces service members and Marines with Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st MEU, secured a location and took-out the enemy’s main source of communication, a radio tower in a recent training exercise held during Cobra Gold 2011.

As eight helicopters descended into the landing zone during a mock helicopter raid Feb. 13, huge clouds of dust and debris were blown into the air. As soon as they touched down, Royal Thai and U.S. Marines immediately began setting up security around the LZ and assembling into squads that would assault the target building.

At the same time, mortar teams began setting up their mortar tubes and training them in the direction of the target, prepared to provide support as needed.

Less then a minute after landing, the Marines began moving towards their objective, and almost instantly received fire from the hostile forces occupying the building. Both the Royal Thai and U.S. Marines took cover and began firing back.

As the enemy took cover the Marines made their move, charging towards the entrance of the building. They then stacked up, kicked in the door, and began methodically clearing and securing the target building.

Within ten minutes the raid was over and the simulated wounded were being cared for.

“This was a good experience,” said Sgt. Richard Elsie, a squad leader with Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “The raid went well and we got to do bilateral training with the Thai Marines and share our strengths. We both train like we fight, and any operation is a chance to better ourselves, and allow us to improve our skills.”

Elsie went on to say that communication with the Royal Thai Marines was difficult, but they were able to work through it using hand and arm signals.

“We were able to hit the building with minimal delay, and maximum violence. Any time you attack a building that’s occupied by enemy forces, it’s tough. Having the language barrier made it even tougher, but since we could communicate with hand and arm signals were able to go in and overwhelm the enemy.”

Both Royal Thai and U.S. Marines faced many challenges during the raid. “The biggest challenge for us was we had to be on the objective quickly,” said Maj. Darren Crow, the operations officer for Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We had to be off the birds and on the objective before the enemy had time to really prepare a defense.”

Once the raid was over, and the Marines had boarded the helicopters that would take them back to the USS Essex (LHD 2), both sides had gained something from the experience.

“Working with the Thai Marines was just great,” said Crow. “Every time we have the chance to work with them, we learn just as much from them as they learn from us. They are very disciplined and skilled, and they are a great ally.”

Exercise Cobra Gold 2011 improves participating nations’ ability to conduct relevant and dynamic training, while strengthening relationships between the militaries and local communities.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit