The commander of U.S. Pacific Command kicked off the longest-running U.S. military exercise in the Pacific in Thailand today, calling the 13,000 multinational participants guardians of future peace and prosperity.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III marked the opening of the 32st iteration of Cobra Gold hosted by Thailand and the United States since 1980.
Cobra Gold began as a bilateral U.S.-Thai exercise, but expanded more than a decade ago to include other regional partners to advance their common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region, officials said.
Cobra Gold 2013, which runs through Feb. 21, brings together the militaries of United States, Thailand and five other Asian countries: Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Twenty additional nations have sent observers, including, for the first time, Burma.
“Whether you are a participant or an observer, or whether you have been here for 32 years or this is your first year, your being here demonstrates your country’s resolve to peace and stability in this region and in the world,” Locklear said at the opening ceremonies. “It is critical to building our multinational coordination, our interoperability with all of our partners in the region and to allow us to collectively respond to crises and protect the peace and prosperity of all our people.”
This year’s exercise will be demanding, as it prepares participants “for a broad spectrum of challenges we are going to face together,” the admiral said. The ambitious training schedule includes a staff exercise, senior leader engagements and “humanitarian and civic projects we will do together, field training we will do together, [and] live-fire events we will do together,” he said.
Highlights will include an amphibious assault demonstration that includes attack jets, helicopters, landing craft and small boats; small-boat and helicopter raids; a multilateral noncombatant evacuation operation; a combined arms live-fire exercise; and jungle warfare and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear training.
All are designed, Locklear said, to “replicate the dynamic environment we find ourselves in today and [expect] in the future.” He challenged the participants to take advantage of the training opportunities at Cobra Gold to build the bonds and capabilities that ensure they will be prepared.
“Working together, we will meet the challenges and forge a brighter future for the region and the world,” he said.
Marines with 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force’s Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, arrived in Thailand last week to partner with Royal Thai Marines to build a schoolhouse at Ban Nam Chiao Elementary School in Lam Ngob district. Another civic project planned during the exercise is construction of a one-story multipurpose building for the Baan Hua Wang Krang School in Thailand’s Muang district.