CHIANG MAI, Thailand- An explosive charge placed beside a doorknob waited for a team of silent raiders to make their move, and with the press of a button, the lock was blown completely out of the doorframe with a thunderous boom. Royal Thai Special Forces had no time to admire the effect of their newly found capability. With the element of surprise and confusion left in the wake of the explosion, the team rushed inside to clear the objective. Nothing stood in their way but a door swinging loosely from bent hinges.
The Dynamic Entry instructors will proudly admit that blowing up doors isn't as brut as it sounds, but it is more of an art. The U.S. Marine Corps sent three instructors from Special Operations Training Group, Special Missions Branch, III Marine Expeditionary Force, to share their expertise during Exercise Cobra Gold 2009.
Cobra Gold is a regularly scheduled joint/coalition multinational exercise and is the latest in the continuing series of U.S.-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace and stability. This exercise also strengthens the Royal Thai government's self defense abilities and their capability to respond to regional contingencies.
Throughout the five-day course, Jan. 31 through Feb. 4, three instructors trained 26 Royal Thai Special Forces, representing all Thai military branches, in the tactics of Dynamic Entry.
These techniques are often used in military operations in urban terrain, which often require forces to enter hostile or unknown buildings. The course covered a wide array of practical skills from crushing explosive charges to simpler breaching techniques using tools such as a sledgehammer or a prying device known as the "hooligan."
"Our mission here is to give them the knowledge and skills required to conduct breaching, to supplement Royal Thai Special Forces tactics and training," said Capt. Zaher Bouza, the officer in charge of Special Missions Branch. "It's a real honor to be out here conducting training with their Special Forces."
The instructors with SOTG taught 11 classes to include breaching hazards, charge construction and mechanical breaching. The Thai Special Forces also participated in the practical application of the tactics, constructing charges from raw materials, and breaching doors with sledgehammers among other things.
"When there's a language barrier, it's important to let [students] see and get hands on experience with the materials," said Staff Sgt. Jesse Kekiwi, the senior instructor for the Dynamic Entry course.
The class not only constructed their own charges, they also used them on nearby buildings that were condemned and turned into blast sites for the exercise.
Throughout the exercise, the buildings were fitted with 30 hardwood doors, two metal doors and six windows for the students to practice different methods of breaching.
The Dynamic Entry course curriculum outlines a variety of techniques such as mechanical, explosive and ballistic breaching. This assortment offers flexibility to the raiding force.
Each method of breaching offers pros and cons. Therefore, the breach team uses intelligence received before their mission to determine exactly what type of breaching technique to use, said Staff Sgt. Mark Frease, a Dynamic Entry course instructor with SOTG. He emphasized the importance of planning and recognizing that every breach is unique.
"We got to use a lot of different equipment and techniques that we have never seen before," said Royal Thai Marine Lt. Watchara Codpat, admitting the complexity of using the charges efficiently.
As the course came to a close on the final day, and splinters from doors piled up on the blast site, the Royal Thai Special Forces and the instructors thanked one another for a safe and successful training evolution. Throughout the week, the two militaries found steady commonalities as they trained together, and it comes as no surprise that breaching and entering buildings is one of them.
Cobra Gold provides unique and dynamic training opportunities for participating military partners, while promoting relationship building between militaries and local communities.