HAT YAO, Kingdom of Thailand -- Loaded into combat rubber raiding craft, a force of 150 U.S. and Royal Thai Marines cut through the current and approach the shore. Hitting the white sand and escaping the buoyancy of the craft, the troops enter the jungle and head for their objective.
Marines and Sailors with Company B., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, launched from the USS Tortuga (LSD-46) and stormed Hat Yao Beach with 50 Royal Thai Marines during a small boat raid here, Feb. 15.
The bilateral raid focused on increasing the interoperability between the Royal Thai Marines and the U.S. Marines as a part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013, an annual exercise co-hosted by the two nations for the past 32 years. Although this type of raid would typically be more clandestine and conducted at night, training during the day allows for more communication between the two forces and allows each to observe the other's techniques.
"This boat raid provided excellent training to see how proficient we are alongside the Thai Marines using our CRRCs," said Capt. M. Regan Jones, the Commanding Officer of Company B., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU. "They can move through their jungle better than we can, so being with them and learning skills they use to better work in this environment makes us better as a whole."
Arriving in more than a dozen CRRC boats, the mission was to seize a small town occupied by hostile forces. To do this, the international Marine force used the cover of the jungle to flank the enemy forces in the town.
“This being the first time I have ever trained with Thai Marines, I found a lot of their techniques interesting,” said Lance Cpl. Melvin C. Saxton, a coxswain with Company B., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Fontland, Wash. “We both have skills that we can show each other, whether it is us showing them how to splash out of the ship, or it is them showing us how to maneuver in a jungle.”
The training event allowed the U.S. Marines to share techniques in boat operations from a ship and on open water, as well as operations in urban terrain. The Royal Thai Marines shared techniques in jungle navigation and jungle warfare.
“Training in the jungle is a valuable experience because we don’t get a chance to do it back on Camp Pendleton, so it is special for us,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel J. Loftus, a rifleman with Company B., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU. “This is their home, so they know what they are talking about. We are visitors here, so this is our chance to learn all we can from them.”
Cobra Gold is an annual exercise that includes numerous multilateral events ranging from amphibious assaults to non-combatant evacuation operations. The training aims to improve interoperability between the United States, the Kingdom of Thailand, and many other participating countries.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.