HAT YAO, Kingdom of Thailand -- Drenched in salty water, more than a dozen amphibious assault vehicles cut through the white sand and climb their way out of the surf. Steel doors on the rear of the vehicle steadily lower, revealing scores of United States and Royal Thai Marines prepared for a fight. Marines and Sailors with Company A., Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, executed an amphibious assault alongside Royal Thai Marines here, Feb. 14. The assault was part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013, an annual multinational training event that is co-hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand and the U.S. “We got to see the similarities and differences between us and our Thai counterparts,” said Staff Sgt. Rick J. Meyers, a platoon sergeant with Company A., BLT 1/5. 31st MEU, and a native of a Riverbank, Calf. “This assault provided us with a really good opportunity to refine our tactics alongside theirs.” The assault began with two Marine F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets, a UH-1Y Huey helicopter and an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter simulating preliminary bombardments on the beach with the aid of pyrotechnics. Afterward, a squad of Royal Thai Marine paratroopers dropped onto a landing zone while the bilateral assault team approached the beach.
Both U.S. and Thai amphibious assault vehicles made landfall at the same time, projecting a combined force of more than 300 international Marines within seconds. The Royal Thai Marines moved forward with the confidence of a force on their home turf, while the U.S. Marines seamlessly adjusted to the challenges of a new environment.
“It is a challenging task to maneuver your team around all the jungle,” said Lance Cpl. Glenn T. Howard, a squad leader with Company A., BLT 1/5, 31st MEU, and a native of Flint, Mich. “It is a unique experience when you are thrown into a jungle environment, surrounded by natural obstacles and given a mission to assault an objective.” The unique terrain and climate provided valuable experience to the Marines of Company A., while the Royal Thai Marines gained insight on the tried and tested amphibious doctrine of the U.S. Marines. “We really enjoyed training with the U.S. Marines today and benefit through shared tactics,” said Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Tanin Surarak, a crew chief with Amphibious Assault Vehicle Division, Royal Thai Marine Corps. Cobra Gold is an annual exercise that includes numerous multilateral events ranging from amphibious assaults to non-combatant evacuation operations. The training aims to improve interoperability between the United States, the Kingdom of Thailand, and many other participating countries. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.