CHIANG MAI, Thailand Aca,!" From 15 stories above the ground, Soldiers and Marines dangle telephone wires and fiber-optic cables from a hotel rooftop to windows below, connecting U.S., Thai, Singaporean, Indonesian and Japanese militaries throughout the Kingdom of Thailand for Exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
Connecting cables is but one of the many responsibilities for the 311th Signal Command (Theater) during the 28th U.S. and Thai-led multilateral exercise.
"The 311th Signal Command's mission here is to integrate all the communication assets with this joint exercise," said Master Sgt. Adren Kela, non-commissioned officer in charge of the Cobra Gold Joint Command Control Center.
These communications assets span locations throughout Thailand and include U.S. Marine Corps and Navy Forces, as well as Thai counterparts.
"Although we are of multiple services and commands, we are one team going forward to support communications needs for USARPAC in Cobra Gold," said Lt. Col. Thomas Mahoney, 311th chief of plans and exercises. "It's essential that we are integrated together."
The Army is the executive agent for Cobra Gold and must work with its service component peers to establish communications throughout the country, Mahoney said.
Several commands within the 311th must also collaborate during the exercise.
"We're all working together," said Kela. "The communications platoon from the 307th (Integrated Theater Signal Battalion) is standing up its systems for the Combined Army Forces Headquarters."
Teams from within the 311th SC (T), to include the 30th Signal Battalion and 516th Signal Brigade, are helping to bring everyone participating in the exercise together.
The 311th SC (T), today a multi-component headquarters command incorporating Active Duty, Reserve and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers, was activated from its status as an Army Reserve Command in 2006 and headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.
As the signal command for U.S. Army Pacific, the 311th SC(T) must ensure the Pacific LandWarNet, a digital telecommunications network across the U.S. Pacific Command's area of responsibility, which includes Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and Asia-Pacific nations and territories, can be extended to support the deployment and integration of modular, expeditionary Army units called to execute contingency operations.
Each year, Exercise Cobra Gold is headquartered and executed in different parts of Thailand.
"This exercise, the Joint Task Force, or headquarters, rotates throughout the Kingdom of Thailand," said Kela. "This year, it's up here in Chiang Mai; last year it was focused in Korat. So it moves around, and this is good because we do a lot of good bilateral training with the Thai Army rather than focusing on one area of the country."
"We have one team here in Chiang Mai; we have Army Forces signal assets and Marine assets located in Phitsanoluk, about a four-hour drive south from here; (and) we have military forces with the Thais working side-by-side in Utaphao, down in Samaesan," he said.
Cobra Gold is designed to increase interoperability of the involved nations to respond to contingencies in the region.
"We always need to improve and work with our counterparts, because one day, like any exercise, it could actually turn into a real-world mission," said Kela.
"Last year at the end of Cobra Gold 08, we were faced with the Burma crisis and we were already in country. It didn't develop to where they needed our involvement, but being here, being in position and staging, working with the Thais, has always made it more comfortable for us and them to accomplish any mission. That's probably one of the most important aspects of these exercises we conduct in the Pacific," Kela concluded.