The America Expeditionary Strike Group and embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed Thailand after completing Exercise Cobra Gold 2020, March 11.
Cobra Gold is a Thailand and United States co-sponsored combined joint task force and joint theater security cooperation exercise annually conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand. The 39th iteration of the event took place Feb. 24 to March 6.
Cobra Gold was designed to improve participating nations’ capability to plan and conduct combined and joint operations; build relationships among participating nations across the region; and improve interoperability over a range of activities, enhancing maritime security, and responding to large-scale natural disasters.
To Captain Poitras, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller with the 31st MEU and two-time participant in Cobra Gold, the chance for U.S. and Thai Marines to interact is a cherished one.
“The chance to work with the Royal Thai Marines is a special opportunity,” said Poitras. “Whether it’s over drinking cobra blood together, coordinating fire support, or just sharing a meal in the field, every year Marines make friendships at every level, and strengthen the bond that the U.S. has with Thailand.”
Throughout the exercise, amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and Marines assigned to the 31st MEU worked alongside multinational forces to conduct cooperative exercises in the Gulf of Thailand and various locations throughout Thailand.
“We benefit the most from the integrated training,” said Lt. Cmdr. Veronica Camiolo, USS Green Bay’s operations officer. “It’s important to work with other nations’ naval forces because in the end operational training and participating in humanitarian efforts with our partners are good skills to practice; I believe we successfully did that during Cobra Gold.”
After arriving in Thailand at the start of the exercise, Sailors and Marines interacted with their Royal Thai Armed Forces counterparts and engaged in planning and interoperability events including ship tours, capability briefs, and exercises designed to give both teams a clear understanding of each other’s processes.
“Strengthening our relationship by operating together enables us to practice a full spectrum of military operations with Royal Thai Forces,” said Capt. Rich LeBron, Amphibious Squadron 11 Commodore, “and reinforces the importance of partnerships to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
This year's exercise consisted of three primary events: a command post exercise, humanitarian civic assistance projects, and a field training exercise. 27 nations participated, with approximately 5,500 U.S. personnel directly participating both ashore and afloat.
“I think we’ve really pushed the ball forward, bringing the F-35 for the first time ever to Thailand and incorporating that in live-fire operations. Also, we’ve enhanced some of our operations with the HIMARS,” said Col. Robert Brodie, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and responsible commander for all Marine Corps forces participating in Cobra Gold 20. “This year the HIMARS are a part of the 31st MEU, [in] concert with the F-35s with ground forces, this is really taking it to the next level of warfare and demonstrating to our partners how we can combine our forces to increase our lethality and our capability. Albeit we’re here for peace and stability in the region, what we are doing is making sure we are ready for conflict and crisis.”
Underway, America conducted flight operations with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) aircraft, including the MV-22B Osprey and F-35B Lightning II. Green Bay supported amphibious operations with 31st MEU amphibious vehicles and landing craft, air cushions.
Operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, the America Expeditionary Strike Group 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team is comprised of America, Green Bay, USS Germantown (LSD 42) and a Marine Air-Ground Task Force with a combined total of 5,500 Sailors and Marines who can conduct missions across the full spectrum of military operations.