CHAI BADAN PROVINCE, Kingdom Of Thailand --
Marines of Battery L, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent six days conducting bilateral fire missions with Royal Thai Marines and Soldiers utilizing various artillery systems here, Feb.9-15.
Working side by side, the Royal Thai Marines took some time to socialize and teach the Marines of Company L, some of their standard operating procedures and tactics.
“We have three guns, the Thai Army has three, and Thai Marine Corps has two out here,” said Capt. Dwight L. Bundy, the battery commander. “One of our objectives here is to build the relationship between us and the Thais. We learn from them as they learn from us, which is always a good thing.”
Through training on each other’s weapon systems, the participating nations were also able to get to know each other on an informal level.
“The Thai Marines have been more than hospitable,” said Sgt. Jonathan D. Garland, a section chief with Battery L, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “We hung out with them a little last night and talked for awhile, then they cooked us some dinner and even made us breakfast this morning, so far it’s just been a great experience.”
The Marines of Battery L invited Royal Thai Marines to take up positions on their howitzers, loading rounds and being taught some of the basic functions of the weapon system.
“We taught them some of our safety procedures and standard operating procedures, and showed them how to do things correctly on our howitzers,” said Bundy. “In return, they let our Marines do the same on their weapon systems.”
Although the U.S. Marines were shooting different howitzers than their Thai counterparts, they were still able to learn some things that can be applied to their own systems.
“They are extremely organized and extremely clean,” said Garland. “Which is something to see because when you’re dealing with a weapon system of this caliber and this size, to be able to keep it as clean as they do says a lot about them, about their level of discipline, and their work ethic. I really have a lot of respect for them.”
The Marines of Company L were also exposed to new weather and terrain that they are unfamiliar with, which according to Bundy, is something they can all benefit from.
“Training here in this weather really helps prepare us for any mission the 31st MEU could get called upon to do in the Pacific,” said Bundy. “Especially because we are from 29 Palms in California, we are used to the dry heat, not the high humidity of tropical nations. That and everything in the desert is just wide open, so it’s good to come here and add in some unfamiliar terrain; we are shooting in a rice paddy right now and that’s something we have never done.”
Although the time Company L spends in the Chai Badan Province will be shorter than some within the battery had expected, Bundy says his Marines are taking full advantage of it.
“We’ve been able to build onto the relationship between us and the Thai’s, both the Royal Thai Marines and soldiers,” said Bundy. “Cobra Gold is a big deal for everyone, it’s a chance to make new friends and learn new stuff that could be mutually beneficial, and no one here is passing that chance up.”
According to Garland, the experience of being able to interact with a foreign military within the same military occupational specialty is one that every Marine should be able to do.
“Every Marine on my gun team is a combat veteran, and they been doing this for a long time,” said Garland. “Like anything in the Marine Corps, every once in awhile you get a little de-motivated from just the daily grind of what’s going on, but after being out here and having a couple of conversations with the Thais, my gun team has regained a lot of motivation that was lost along the way. Some of the Marines may have been looking at getting out of the Corps, and its things like this that can really turn that around and keep them in the Corps.”
Garland went on to say it has been a really good experience and it really boosted the Marines’ morale.
“The Thai’s have done a lot of good shooting as far as I can see, and they shoot very proficiently,” said Garland. “I would go to combat with these Thai Marines any day.”
CG 2012 demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the U.S.’s expeditionary force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.