Photo Credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R.
GULF OF THAILAND (February 9, 2009) Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), embarked onboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), board a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter bound for the Kingdom of Thailand as a part of Cobra Gold 2009 (CG09). Cobra Gold is an annual Kingdom of Thailand and U.S. co-sponsored military exercise designed to train U.S. and partner asian-pacific nation forces. The exercise will also include humanitarian civic action projects with participating nations from Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the U.S. The U.S. will also engage with Thai military forces in a field training exercise to promote familarity with and cohesion between these partner nation's military forces. CG 09 provides a unique and dynamic environment to strengthen the bond between these partner militaries and the Thai community. Essex is commanded by Capt. Brent Canady and the lead ship of the only forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Strike Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander. Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.