HAT YAO BEACH, Kingdom of Thailand --
Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, successfully completed all scheduled events during exercise Cobra Gold 2011, Feb. 19.
Throughout the two-week exercise, Marines participated in bilateral training with service members from the Kingdom of Thailand, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, and multiple other nations which participated.
“This year’s exercise was a success,” said Col. Andrew MacMannis, commanding officer, 31st MEU. “We participated in multi-lateral training throughout Thailand. From the amphibious landings we practiced in the south at Hat Yao beach, to the combined arms live-fire exercise in the north at Ban Dan Lan Hoi, the Marines of the 31st MEU were able to get great training and experience. We also continue to develop important relationships.”
For many Marines, exercise Cobra Gold 2011 was the first time they had set foot in Thailand.
“This is my first Cobra Gold exercise,” said Cpl. Seth R. Tipton, a squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st MEU. “It was a good experience, we got to interact with the Royal Thai Marines, and it gave us a chance to learn different fighting styles. While we were here we got taught some martial arts by a few Thai Marines in-between training, and in return, we taught them a little of ours.”
In addition to building skills, Marines of the 31st MEU were also able to develop the relationship the United States has with the Kingdom of Thailand.
“Through the bilateral training that was conducted, Marines were able to interact with the Thais on a one-on-one basis. This built friendships and showed that Thais and U.S. share a lot of the same values,” said Maj. Horace Bly, civil affairs officer, 31st MEU. “It also showed the local people of Thailand, many that had never seen U.S. forces before, the good that our military is capable of. They saw this through our engineer, medical and dental civil assistance projects we had throughout the country.”
Although this year’s training exercise is now completed, Marines are already looking forward to next years’ exercise.
“This was my first Cobra Gold,” said Lance Cpl. Elijah E. Wheeler, a Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 2nd Bt. 5th Marines, 31st MEU, 3rd MEB. “I enjoyed seeing this country and interacting with the locals here. I had a great time, I feel lucky that I had the chance to experience this, and I hope I get to do it again next year.”
For three decades, Thailand has hosted Cobra Gold, one of the largest land-based, joint, combined military exercises in the world. Cobra Gold started out as a bilateral exercise, but has grown to include Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea as full participants and dozens of other countries as official observers.
A successful Cobra Gold 2011 resulted in increased operational readiness of U.S. and Thai forces, and matured military to military relations between the partner nations.