By Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie, CG09 Combined-Joint Information Bureau Staff WriterFebruary 4, 2009
CHIANG MAI, Thailand- With an emphasis on friendship and cooperation, Exercise Cobra Gold 09, a multi-national combined joint training exercise and humanitarian effort held throughout the Kingdom of Thailand, launched here Feb. 4.
"I urge all of you who participate in the exercise to take advantage of making new friends," said Gen. Montree Sungkasap, Thai Deputy Chief of Defence Forces. "Our relationships are crucial for efficient multinational operations in the future."
Started in 1982 as a mutual effort between U.S. and Thai armed forces, Cobra Gold has expanded to include Singapore, Japan and Indonesia.
"This year's exercise marks the 28th anniversary of Cobra Gold and also marks the 176th year of U.S.-Thai relations," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, U.S. Army, Pacific commanding general and co-exercise director. "I am honored that the Thailand military and the United States military have partnered together along with the other participating nations to execute this regionally significant training event once again."
Cobra Gold is the United States' largest multilateral exercise in the region and offers the more than 20 participating countries critical training opportunities to improve interoperability and capability in conducting multinational operations. Approximately 8,000 U.S. servicemembers from installations world-wide contribute to the exercise.
Nations observing the exercise are China, South Korea, India, Germany, Laos, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Australia and Nepal.
"The activities which are going to take place during the exercise will help testify to all countries our military cooperation in a creative way to enhance the abilities in humanitarian operations altogether," said Sungkasap. "This cooperation will lead to readiness in military operations and assistance to people in any crisis which might happen in the future."
Cobra Gold is comprised of a computer-simulated command post exercise, United Nations staff exercise and Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative exercise, senior leadership seminar, humanitarian/ civic action projects and a field training exercise.
"Cobra Gold offers a unique experience, which consists of vast training opportunities for all partners," said Mixon. "It is designed to improve upon our joint and multi-national interoperability; the exercise is packed with multiple simultaneous events; from contingency operations to a computer-simulated command post exercise, field training and live fire exercises, and multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects."
The exercise has adapted over its 28 years to accommodate the ever-changing missions in the Pacific. One major change to the exercise this year is the involvement of a Stryker platoon from New York. The Stryker interim armored vehicle (IAV) is a 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicle designed to enable ground forces to maneuver more easily in close and urban terrain, while providing protection in open terrain.
Another effort exhibiting growth within the exercise in the realm of multi-national efforts is the United Nations planning cell.
"Cobra Gold this year is truly a regional affair, with representatives from more than 20 countries participating, observing or supporting," said James Entwistle, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy-Thailand. "Last year we celebrated 175 years of friendship between our nations and, as we look to the future, the U.S-Thai military alliance will certainly continue to be the cornerstone of the relationship."
The importance of the training received during Cobra Gold was evident a few years ago when many of the exercise's participating countries joined together for actual operations to support a humanitarian mission for the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004.
"Ultimately, this Cobra Gold's success will depend on you, the participants," said Mixon. "I urge each and every one of you to work together, on building upon a stronger bond that will promote regional peace and security."
Media interested in covering this exercise should refer to information posted on the Cobra Gold website at http://www.usarpac.army.mil/cobragold.html or contact the Combined/Joint Information Bureau Chief, Lt. Col. Cynthia Teramae at 05-322-4523, cell 08-601-24194 or at email@example.com.
For more information about Cobra Gold 2009, visit www.usarpac.army.mil/cobragold.html. To see more photos of the opening ceremony visit www.flickr.com/photos/cobragold2009.