By Col. Ronald Smith and Maj. Donald Little, Eighth Army Public AffairsFebruary 16, 2011
BANGKOK - Seven U.S. service members from 8th Army's 65th Medical Brigade are participating in the 30th Operation Cobra Gold through Feb. 21 in various locations throughout Thailand.
Cobra Gold, the largest land-based joint multinational operation of its kind in the world, is designed to train and test the interoperability of military forces in a crisis response.
The medical and dental personnel are performing alongside their Republic of Korea counterparts in the Medical Civil Action Program, or MEDCAP, providing basic medical, pediatric, dental, optometric, veterinary and pharmaceutical care to residents of a number of remote towns.
The MEDCAP team involves around 80 personnel. Medical practitioners from Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan are also participating.
Eighth Army Command Surgeon, Col. Ronald Smith, recently returned from a visit to the team. He said some parts of Thailand benefit greatly from this program.
"Thai healthcare has seen a tremendous upswing, through improvements in the National Health Insurance program, advances within the large medical centers to bring them in line with world class standards, and establishment of a robust medical tourism initiative," said Smith. "However, care in the more remote areas still lags, providing ample opportunity to provide needed services through MEDCAP activities."
Smith said that over 1,000 people of all ages were served on the second day of activity, held at a local school. He added that all the participants related great personal satisfaction in being able to make a difference in the lives of so many, particularly the children.
He also noted how quickly this multinational team of professionals has bonded.
"This team has formed relationships that will endure across borders and time," said Smith.
"It is mutually beneficial for friends and allies to train together to improve interoperability and build friendly cooperative relations," Smith added. "Multinational responses to regional contingencies are likely to be the norm in the future."
The Cobra Gold exercise is conducted in three parts: a combined, multinational staff planning exercise, a force-on-force field training exercise and a humanitarian exercise.
This year, the Humanitarian Civic Assistance Projects included eight engineering projects and nine medical assistance activities.