From its beginning in 1982, Cobra Gold has been a vital part of United States strategy in the Pacific. Hosted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand, the exercise, which is one of the largest of its kind in the world, has grown from a bilateral training exercise to one that includes the direct participation of several other nations in the Pacific.
When Cobra Gold began, the goal was to improve the interoperability between Thai and U.S. militaries. As America’s oldest ally in the region, the exercise has been vitally important to operations in the Pacific and strengthening long-established Thai-U.S. relationship.
In its 30th installment this year, Marines of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade worked with service members from Thailand, Republic of Korea, Republic of Singapore, Malaysia, Republic of Indonesia and Japan, along with more than 20 other observing nations.
“Cobra Gold offers us a great opportunity to train alongside the soldiers and Marines of seven other countries within the Asia-Pacific region,” said U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Mark A. Brilakis, 3rd MEB commanding general. “The multinational training that we conduct will directly support any future operation or contingency that may occur in the region, ranging from humanitarian assistance to disaster relief. With this being the 30th iteration of Cobra Gold, the foundation of support and security that we have built between countries grows stronger every year.”
As warfare has evolved into the twenty-first century, so has the exercise. Operations ranging from humanitarian assistance to amphibious assaults ensure participating nations experience the full spectrum of modern military missions. Whether actual military challenges involve regional conflicts or natural disasters, all countries involved in the combined training will have the experience of preparation and the know-how to unite in response. The thorough nature of the exercise ensures that combat, logistics and air support elements face realistic scenarios, testing their abilities and enabling troops to learn from their international counterparts.
Other aspects of the exercise include real-world support for partnering or regional nations’ various civic projects and community relations, such as the building of schools and medical assistance. These projects aim to not only help the local populace, but to strengthen ties between the U.S. military and Thai communities.
“The foundation of support and security that we have built between countries grows stronger every year.”
“With the help of the Thai military, local government officials, and in collaboration with our multinational partners, we have been very successful in letting the local population know we are here to help,” said Lt. Cmdr. Randy S. Dee, lead planner for the Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force. “Together we are giving people in remote areas access to optometry, dental and other medical care that can possibly change their lives.”
Cobra Gold has also proven as an exceptional testing ground for new battlefield technology. The most recent exercise allowed Marines to showcase renewable energy.
Marines with Ground Combat Element, 3rd MEB, conducted field tests in order to gain insight on the effectiveness of new solar panels that can be deployed virtually anywhere.
“It’s an austere environment,” said Col. Stephen M. Neary, Ground Combat Element commanding officer. “It’s extreme weather conditions of 110, 115 degrees with the heat index and the dust. If they want to test any equipment, this is the perfect place to do it.”
Cobra Gold provides dynamic training, international cooperation and a chance to help people in need. Though it began as a training operation between the U.S. and Thailand, it has grown into a massive effort to support cooperation between nations and as always, to help maintain stability and peace.