Soldiers key in 'behind the scenes' effort at Cobra Gold
February 3, 2009
- Cobra Gold is an annual joint, combined exercise hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand
CHIANG MAI, Thailand - Stepping on stage should be easy for Cobra Gold 09 participants, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Army, Pacific Special Troops Battalion, who are manning the Coalition Task Force/ Joint Task Force Headquarters.
"We're the crew, not the actors; we're the behind the scenes people," said Sgt. 1st Class Lori Coloma, noncommissioned officer in charge of billeting and logistics for the exercise.
Coloma is part of a 21-person team charged with ensuring the administrative, billeting, contracting requirements, transportation, supply, religious and medical needs of all exercise participants are provided in a timely manner.
Cobra Gold is an annual joint, combined exercise hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand and is focused on maintaining and improving military interoperability among its participants.
The exercise is led by U.S. and Thai militaries and is joined by the militaries of Singapore, Indonesia and Japan. STB personnel have to overcome language barriers as well as work with personnel stationed throughout the globe.
"So far, this exercise has gone very smoothly," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Kempner, noncommissioned officer in charge of operations. "It's had a few bumps, but the idea is to stay cool, calm and collected, and know we'll make it happen."
The heart of the operation, said Kempner, is the administrative section, led by Sgt. 1st Class Shavonna Lear. This section does all the inprocessing, outprocessing and awards.
"As soon as all the inprocessing ends, they have to start working the recognition and awards pieces, not only for the U.S., but Thai, Singapore and everyone else (including) the support we've had from the hotel and transportation," Kempner said. "Sgt. 1st Class Lear and her team will stay busy from beginning to end."
The crew arrived two weeks prior to the main body of personnel, coordinating everything from vehicles and cell phones to picking up equipment in Bangkok and moving it 430 miles north to Chiang Mai.
Sgt. James Straker, transportation non-commissioned officer, is in charge of coordinating travel to and from anything within the area of operation. "I'm working some long hours, doing a lot of one on one with the nationals, getting up early and going to sleep late, but it's fun," he said.
Straker attributed much of the mission's accomplishment to the assistance from Patcharin Mahapatlertpong, a civilian contractor translator.
"Most of our drivers don't speak English, and I'm definitely not fluent in Thai, so it helps a lot to have our translator; it takes a lot of the stress off the job, " he said. "I need them to understand that they need to be in specific places at specific times, so the interpreter helps a lot."
As Cobra Gold's stage is set, USARPAC STB doesn't slow down their activity behind the scenes, said Kempner. "We'll stay busy until we leave, and we leave after everyone else leaves."