LOP BURI, Thailand - Royal Thai Army forces hosted the United Nations Global Peacekeeping Operation Initiative (GPOI) certification in the jungle here Feb. 6.

This year, senior noncommissioned officers from the United States certified NCOs from Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore as Observer/Controller/Trainers for the annual GPOI, part of Cobra Gold 09.

U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Michael Thomas, United States Pacific Command GPOI Officer in Charge was responsible for this year's event.

"I'm very pleased with the training that's being conducted here, it's been overwhelming successful," said the East Hartford, Conn. native. "The Thai Army has been amazing hosts, they've resourced everything."

Thomas explained that in past years, U.S. instructors had come to the event and used the forum more as an academic opportunity instead of a training one. Cobra Gold 09 was just the exercise for Thomas to showcase his almost 30 years of leading and training soldiers.

"This year, every platoon is broken down into groups of 45 Soldiers from all five countries participating, but our (U.S.) focus is on the trainers," said Thomas. "We provided some of the best training possible for these senior NCOs to take back to their countries and use to prepare their troops and ensure they have the capacity to conduct future U.N. missions."

Established in 2004, the GPOI program was developed by the U.N. in an attempt to create a common standard for training when it was recognized that the majority of the countries trained and certified differently. Cobra Gold 09 GPOI certification allowed the five countries involved the ability to create the training, establish the objectives and certify their platoons.

"This is the best training I've ever received," said Master Sgt. Seksan, an infantryman in the Royal Thai Army. "I'm learning difficult tasks, like controlling a mob that I can teach more soldiers when I return to my base."

Tasks trained at the site included check point operations, patrolling, convoy operations, cordon and searching procedures, support of a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) site, and guarding a fixed distribution site. These were chosen based on each countries previous experience on multiple U.N. missions.

At the DDR lane, Soldiers were faced with a barrage of challenges ranging from reacting to sniper and mortar fire, to media on the battlefield. During the scenario NCO leadership is forced to deal with hostile mobs of local civilians, and reporters asking for interviews, all while maintaining a secure environment for the U.N. workers to operate.

The challenges continued on the convoy lane, where Soldiers providing security for the U.N.'s World Food Agency must react to angry villagers and improvised explosive devices similar to the ones used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The primary mission for the Soldiers in these exercises is to provide security for the U.N., a difficult task in any situation.

Indonesian Army Sgt. Rino enjoys the new "train the trainer" system. The veteran of U.N. missions in Mongolia, Bangladesh and Thailand also enjoyed the freedom of being able to add his experience to make the training more realistic.

"This is really good training, much better than the old way," he said. "I think training us to train our Soldiers is great, we design the training, prepare our men and then execute."

Cobra Gold 09 is the 28th annual Thai and U.S. sponsored combined exercise promoting regional stability and security. The exercise offers all participating nations critical training opportunities to improve interoperability and capabilities conducting multinational operations. Additionally, 2009 marks the 176th year of U.S. and Thai relations.

"Everyone has been so helpful," said Indonesian Special Forces Capt. Saria Di Pratomo. "I love to work with the United States, they teach us so much, and I hope we get more in the future!"

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16