BAN DAN LAN HOI, Kingdom of Thailand -- Multinational military exercises consist of more than combat simulations, live-fire ranges and field maneuvers. Assisting the people of the host nation is an element of the exercise every bit as important as the tactical level training.
Navy doctors and corpsmen with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit joined their Royal Thai Army medical counterparts for a day-long subject matter expert exchange as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013 at the Wat Ta Kraw community center here, Feb. 14.
The bilateral medical team gave instruction on maternal health, oral hygiene, metabolic syndrome and many other healthcare issues to an audience of approximately 50 civilian caregivers from throughout the area.
"Knowledge isn’t something to be hoarded; to capitalize on it, you share as much as you can,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Lee, a corpsman with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st MEU, and a native of Los Angeles, Calif. “This event also helps us refresh our skills through teaching, so everyone present benefits from the exchange.”
Lessons were taught by American and Thai personnel alike, both overcoming the language barrier through the use of an interpreter and improvised skits. One skit included a humorous vignette on the prevention of disease-carrying mosquito bites.
The group's humor and creativity created a unique learning environment for those in attendance. Typically, the Royal Thai military’s medical corps is trained in a classroom environment, as are many of the country’s hospital workers. However, in the poorer areas of the region, providers gain their skills primarily through on-the-job training.
“Everything I know I learned after I began working at the clinic,” said Buni Chapori, a civilian healthcare provider. “It is a great privilege for the U.S. and Thai militaries to teach us more, making us able to better help in the future.”
While the focus of the event was to pass on medical knowledge to others, the underlying training the service members received demonstrated how well the classes were presented. Language differences caused little trouble and each presenter worked smoothly with their Thai counterpart.
“Both parties equally contributed to the learning process, neither tried to take center stage,” said Navy LT Zachary Smith, medical planner for the 31st MEU and a native of Seattle, Wash. “It really speaks to the enduring 180-year relationship we’ve had with the Thais."
Cobra Gold, in its 32nd iteration, 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.