By Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead/4-25 ABCT PAOFebruary 17, 2011
BAN DAN LAN HOI, Thailand -- Thai paratroopers from the 3-31st Infantry Regiment, King's Guard and their U.S. counterparts from the Alaska-based 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne Infantry ended Cobra Gold 2011 with a rigorous three-day field exercise in the wilderness of Thailand Feb. 14-17.
The operation started with airborne insertion into the massive training area. The Thai and U.S. paratroopers both jumped from the same C-130 and landed on Wang Luk East Drop Zone and quickly consolidated their forces.
The Thai and U.S. troops shared the task of maintaining security as the leadership readied for their first push to their objectives.
In their training scenario, fictional civilians were captured by radicals and being held somewhere in the area. The available intelligence pointed to the training area as their last known location. Opposing forces were already in position to provide sufficient resistance.
The idea was to keep the joint Thai U.S. force moving and hitting additional objectives throughout the night. It was a test of both teamwork and fortitude inspired by the challenges of schools like the U.S. Army Ranger School.
"We had made arrangements to leave clues and even enemy survivors to provide the joint force the means to locate the next objective after each skirmish," said Capt. Benjamin Marquez, the battalion intelligence officer for the 3-509th.
The joint force walked eight kilometers through rugged terrain and dense vegetation before recovering all of the role playing hostages.
The short break in mission requirements allowed the two armies to rest up before the final event of the training exercise, a combined joint firing operation called a combined arms live fire exercise, or CALFEX.
U.S. and Thai forces waged a massive assault on a fictional enemy border just a few short hours after the demanding events of the field training exercise. The joint force used Marine TOW missiles, fighter jets, and Thai artillery to pound the distant hillside which represented the border of the fictional hostile country blamed for the capture of hostages in the previous day's exercise.
For nearly 30 minutes the empty valley suffered the wrath of the two countries' firepower in an impressive display of explosions and air dominance. Immediately afterward, a rush of Thai and U.S. paratroopers flooded in and took the area in a hail of live gunfire.
From the vantage point of the commanding generals high over the engagement area, the scene looked like a coordinated strike of ants overwhelming a battered and smoking enemy location. The field training exercise was over. There was nothing left.
As the Thai and U.S. troops returned to their camp for rest and refit, soldiers from both armies smiled and slapped each other on the back, mimicking the motions of explosions and machine gun fires.
Despite the language barrier, it seemed the two forces had bridged the culture gap and the underlying message was clear: Job well done.