CHIANG MAI, Thailand -- In an effort to reinforce international ties, Cobra Gold 09 gives service members from over 20 countries a chance to share knowledge and an opportunity to build a lasting bond between nations.

This year's exercise is the latest in the continuing series of U.S. - Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace through U.S. Pacific Command.

Soldiers of the 9th Mission Support Command, a reserve unit based out of Ft. Shafter Flats, Hawaii, have taken on the responsibility of working with coalition armies in the planning and operations element of this year's exercise.

"We are a smaller part of a much larger picture," said Col. John Ellis, commanding officer for the U.S. Army, Japan support unit.

When a conflict should arise, planning and operations staffs are charged with using available enemy, terrain and political intelligence to develop an appropriate plan of action to recommend to higher command following a set process.

"We're here to work with our partner armies in developing a response for whatever scenario should come up during this exercise," said Lt. Col. Mitch DeMarais, operations and planning officer. "This is meant to strengthen our relationship with them in order to be sufficiently prepared for a real-life scenario."

So far, the experience has proved to be a valuable tool in assessing the 9th MSC's procedures for operations planning. In comparing steps that are used to develop a course of action for ground forces, they have found that each country uses the same basic principles in developing a sound course of action.

"It was a surprise to me that our planning processes are so much alike. Knowing that, we're not here to take the lead. We are here to learn what we can from them and at the same time advising and observing them, seeing how we can better meet their needs," said Sgt. Major. Chris Kaukali, administrative noncommissioned officer in charge.

Even with a language barrier, the coalition forces have found ways to communicate with each other and make the most out of their time together.

"There are military symbols that all nations understand, so we try to use those when it's necessary," said Kaukali. "There are other things on which we have found a common understanding. That helps us out tremendously."

For Soldiers of the 9th MSC, CG09 has been rewarding and insightful, providing them a chance to learn about other cultures and bond with their foreign counterparts, who have been equally enjoying the experience.

"This is my first Cobra Gold and it has definitely been a positive experience for me so far. We were briefed on what to expect coming here, but it has been so much more than the great things they told us," said Kaukali.

In their endeavor to contribute to the success of CG09, Combined Army Forces are ready for the challenges that await them over the course of the exercise and gain as much knowledge as they can from their foreign partners.

"We'll do all we can to strengthen our military bond and an appreciation for how other armies do business," said Ellis. "Of course we also want to gain a cultural understanding among each other and develop lasting friendships.