WHITE BEACH, OKINAWA, Japan — Following the lead of the USS Tortuga (LSD-46), Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked the USS Germantown (LSD-42) en route to the Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 2
For more than three decades, the United States has participated in the multilateral exercise Cobra Gold, where approximately 20 countries are represented in the month-long training regimen dedicated to strengthening foreign affairs and interoperability.
“Cobra Gold 2012 is the 31st annual iteration, demonstrating the U.S. and Thai commitment to promoting regional stability and security,” said Maj. Foster Ferguson, executive officer of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “It is mutually beneficial for allies to train together to improve interoperability and build friendly cooperative relations with our bilateral ties continually strengthened through exercises like this.”
The USS Germantown will be taking all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, where above and below its deck rest CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, Landing Craft Utility boats and M-777 howitzers.
“For a type of ship that has a well deck primarily for Landing Craft Air Cushions, it’s flexing for these LCUs and vehicles,” said Cmdr. Jason Leach, executive officer of the USS Germantown. “It really speaks of the versatility of the ship to be packed full with Marines and also accommodate the changes in cargo.”
Representing a small MAGTF on its own, the USS Germantown houses elements of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, CLB-31 and the 31st MEU’s Air Combat Element. As the Marine commands on ship are diverse, so are the training exercises that will be conducted at Cobra Gold.
“For us, we’ll be participating in combined arms exercises, firing the 155 mm artillery with the Thai forces,” said Sgt. Bradley Evans, assistant communications chief with Battery L., 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines attached to BLT 1/4, 31st MEU. “However, there’s going to be other training such as raids and noncombatant evacuation operations, but it all goes toward strengthening each others’ capabilities.”
As the Marines and Sailors gear up for Cobra Gold 2012, the meaning of the exercise is not lost in the excitement of visiting a foreign country. Through such exercises, stronger relationships between foreign nations are forged, benefiting all personnel involved.
“The flexibility of how the MEU is consolidated to both LSDs speaks greatly of the versatile expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps and the Navy, and how they work together to accomplish the mission,” said Leach. “We’re more than happy to get underway and participate in this year’s Cobra Gold.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.