Photo Information

High explosive munitions impact a training area as U.S. Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Royal Thai Marines stand ready to assault an objective in northern Thailand, Feb. 16, as part of a bilateral combined arms live fire exercise held during Cobra Gold 2011. Royal Thai military and U.S. Marines of the 31st MEU, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and III Marine Expeditionary Force participated in CALFEX, showcasing their ability to work together to accomplish a mission. This is the 30th anniversary of the Cobra Gold exercise, held to improve participating nation's abilities to conduct multilateral operations and maintain theater security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Photo by Capt. Caleb D. Eames

CALFEX unites Thai, U.S. military efforts in wide range of war fighting capabilities

16 Feb 2011 | Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

From 5.56mm to 155mm, Royal Thai and U.S. forces used a variety of ammunition and weaponry to successfully complete the Combined Arms Live-Fire Exercise, Feb. 16.

The event involved service members with the Royal Thai Army and Marine Corps, U.S. Army soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Brigade Airborne, and Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Royal Thai service members and Marines with Battery I, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU, provided artillery support with M777 A1 Ultra lightweight Howitzers.

U.S. and Thai military aircraft provided fire support from the sky and infantry troops made their way toward the objectives. The exercise had three goals. Soldiers with 3/509 would secure one objective, a company of Royal Thai soldiers would occupy another, and a combined effort of Royal Thai and U.S. Marines would attack the third.

For the service members of both nations CALFEX proved to be an effective tool for expanding ground war-fighting skills and capabilities. It allowed personnel to gain a broader perspective of jungle warfare and noncommissioned officer skills used by partner nation counterparts.

“This was an excellent experience to learn from and work with another military force, from the planning processes to the actual execution of the mission,” said 1st Lt. Brendan McGovern, a platoon commander with BLT 2/5. “This exercise has given the Marines a deeper appreciation for a (Marine Air Ground Task Force) and I believe the Marines of 2/5 are better all around than they were 12 days before this field training began.”

CALFEX was also an excellent opportunity for young leadership to gain more experience and teach their junior Marines.

“This is a worthwhile experience, especially for small unit leaders,” said Sgt. David Dotson, a squad leader with BLT 2/5. “From the experience we have gained here and what we had from the past, we now have knowledge that we can pass on to our future Marines.”

For three decades, Thailand has hosted Cobra Gold, one of the largest land-based, joint, combined military training exercises in the world. Cobra Gold started out as a bilateral exercise, but has since grown to include Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea as full participants and dozens of other countries as official observers.


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit