Exercise Cobra Gold Strengthens Interoperability, Regional Relationships

WASHINGTON --

Some 5,800 U.S. service members, working in Thailand alongside forces from 29 partner nations, have wrapped up one of the largest security cooperation exercises in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters today that Cobra Gold 18, which ended Feb. 23, sought to improve participants’ capability to plan and conduct combined and joint operations, to build relationships among participating nations across the region, and to improve interoperability over a range of activities, including enhancing maritime security and responding to large-scale natural disasters.

Three Phases to Success

Exercise events included a command post operations event, six vertical construction projects as part of an engineer civic actions project, and a field training exercise consisting of nonlive and live-fire operations.

The command post exercise featured coordination among participating nations in noncombatant evacuations, forcible entry tactics and United Nations peacekeeping operations to increase interoperability in a complex scenario and to identify and eliminate procedural differences.

In addition to U.S. forces, representatives from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea synchronized efforts to overcome the challenges of the exercise.

Humanitarian civic actions also played a large role in the overall exercise operations. Combined task force engineers conducted six school-improvement projects at various locations throughout Thailand. In addition to improving relationships, the projects aimed to provide quality sustainment training for those involved, to build multipurpose facilities in underserved areas, and to promote security interests of the nations involved. The engineering efforts placed 124 pillars, more than 15,000 concrete blocks and poured more than 8,000 square feet of concrete.

The field training exercise included a massive combination of forces in air, ground and maritime operations. In an effort to maintain readiness and sustainment training requirements while emphasizing security cooperation between partner nations, participants launched operations responding to a simulated large-scale natural disaster in a foreign country, and they completed processes and procedures to evacuate affected civilians. 

Acquiring Specialized Skills

South Korean and U.S. reconnaissance Marines learned basic skills necessary to survive and thrive in a hot, dangerous environment from Royal Thai Marines, even learning to capture and kill a snake to drink its blood for hydration. They also learned how to identify local edible and inedible vegetation, how to locate water sources and techniques for building a fire with bamboo and trapping wild game.

U.S. military units participating in the exercise included the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division; the Army’s 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division; and Navy task forces 72, 75 and 76, along with a P-3C Orion detachment and the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard. The Air Force provided six F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 13th Air Expeditionary Group.

“This exercise was an integral part of the U.S. commitment to strengthen engagement in the region,” Manning said.