By Sgt. Daniel Kyle Johnson, 2nd BCT, 25th IDFebruary 10, 2014
PHITSANULOK PROVINCE, Thailand (Feb. 10, 2014) -- Soldiers of the 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, are supporting the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the "Gimlets," during Exercise Cobra Gold, throughout February, in the Kingdom of Thailand.
Exercise Cobra Gold is a recurring multinational and multi-service exercise which takes place annually in the Kingdom of Thailand and was developed by the Thai and U.S. militaries. CG 14 will consist of a command post exercise, humanitarian and civic assistance projects, and a field training exercise.
The 225th Brigade Support Battalion is providing medical care, field-feeding teams and essential health and welfare recommendations for commanders on the ground.
"Our mission is to support 1-21 during Cobra Gold," said Staff Sgt. Jeff Turner, non-commissioned officer in charge of 225th Brigade Support Battalion operations in Cobra Gold. "We provide food service, preventive medicine, medical care, weapons maintenance and generator repair."
Supporting more than 400 Soldiers is no simple feat. Feeding that many people alone is a monumental task.
"There is no off time," said Turner. "We start around [3 a.m.] and begin preparing breakfast. Once it is served we need to break everything down and clean it. Then we have a couple of hours for personal hygiene and physical training before we start preparing for dinner. The dinner service and clean up after can run until [10-11p.m.]."
Feeding Soldiers in the field isn't as simple as driving to the grocery store and buying ingredients.
"When you go to a foreign country, on average, 30-40 percent of people will get sick from food or water related illnesses," said Capt. Seung Seo, the officer in charge of 225th Brigade Support Battalion during Cobra Gold. "We try to mitigate those risk factors so that the Soldiers can do their jobs without getting sick."
"For the water, we test for chlorine and take samples to incubate and test for e-coli and other pathogens," he continued. "The food has temperature checks from the supplier up to when it is delivered to us. We also ensure proper sanitation and cooking methods."
One of the most dangerous factors to deal with is the high heat and humidity levels in the region.
"We monitor the heat and humidity levels to provide a heat category to the commanders and recommended work and rest cycles. Water consumption is a critical factor in keeping the Soldiers healthy," said Seo.
"We bring in about 500 five-gallon bottles of water and a little over 12,000 bottles of water every four days," said Turner.
Vector borne diseases such as malaria are also a concern in the region. Seo, who is also the Force Health Protection officer, and the Physician's Assistant from 225th Brigade Support Battalion, Maj. Michael O'Leary, have a way to mitigate that as well.
"For vector borne diseases such as malaria, we prescribe a prophylactic antibiotic," said Seo. "We also gather insect samples to see what types of insects are in the area, this gives us a good indication as to what possible diseases could be a threat."
"The other aspect of ensuring the success of the antibiotic is enforcing its use along with other measures, such as mosquito nets," said O'Leary.
All of the preparation and support of 1-21 during Cobra Gold gives real world experience for the Soldiers in the 225th.
"Being able to conduct these types of test in an austere environment is real world practice for future operations in the National Training Center and other contingency missions," said Seo.
Cobra Gold 14, in its 33rd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises. The experience the Soldiers of the 225th gain here will help ensure they have the ability to proficiently perform their mission in the future.