CAMP MURRAY, Wash. — Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation and a Tactical Air Control Party Airman from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron shared knowledge with the Royal Thai Air Force during two aviation subject matter expert exchanges.
“One point that I think is interesting about this is that we sent an Army Aviation team supported with an Air JTAC to engage with the Royal Thai Air Force on search and rescue and then they pivoted to an aviation engagement with the Royal Thai Army,” said Lt. Col. Keith Kosik, director of the Washington National Guard’s State Partnership Program. “This reflects the future of our program. Increasingly joint in the teams we send, which brings a myriad of capabilities and perspectives, and able to engage across services with our partners. Not just Army to Army or Air to Air, but a blend of people and capabilities.”
The Washington National Guard and Thailand have been partners under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 2002.
From Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 in Lopburi, Kingdom of Thailand, the Washington National Guard Soldiers and Airman shared best practices for search and rescue operations.
“Washington Army National Guard aviation personnel exchanged information and practices with the Royal Thai Air Force by providing aviation medical evacuation, crash site and personnel recovery and distributed adaptive real-time teams for cross-level training,” said Capt. Taylor Payne, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation, and officer in charge of the exchanges.
In the past few years, the 1-168th GSAB has supported search and rescue efforts for missing or injured climbers and hikers in the state. Discussing these experiences was helpful during the exchanges.
“They were overtly happy with our integration of knowledge and tactics, techniques and procedures for search and rescue and humanitarian assistance,” said Payne. “The exchange helped build a foundation for future engagements and points of interest for defense support to civil authorities’ operations.”
During the week-long exchange, the team focused on search and rescue procedures with an emphasis on personnel recovery. The training also integrated Thai combat controllers for on-site airspace deconfliction. A U.S. team provided a search and rescue scenario and evaluation for both teams to work through during the final staff exercise.
“The exchange was successful in that we shared general knowledge on search and rescue with humanitarian assistance for civilian response and worked through constraints,” said Payne.
The following week, the Soldiers from the 1-168th GSAB traveled to the Royal Thai Army’s Aviation Headquarters in Lopburi to take part in an aviation subject matter expert exchange with air crews from the Royal Thai Army’s 9th Aviation Battalion. The exchange continues a long-term relationship between the two nations' rotary wing communities.
“The team identified aviation operations, training, maintenance, supply, and standards needs,” said Payne. “We also identified challenges and opportunities in order to build a foundation for future engagements.
“It was important to share these stories with them,” Payne said. “It shows that the safety training we do can save lives.”