Michael Heath, the US embassy’s charge d’affaires, said the annual Cobra Gold military drill ensures US and Thai soldiers can join forces in every situation, ranging from humanitarian assistance to disaster relief.
Despite the spread of the Covid-19 disease, US Army Brig Gen Josh Rudd, the Deputy Commanding General for Operations of the 25th Infantry Division, said the US military is taking additional measures, such as frequently topping up their supply of hand sanitisers. “We provide additional medicines and flew in experts from the US military as part of the exercise. But really, any time we deploy, the health of our soldiers’ is our utmost concern,” he said. Royal Thai Marine Corps Capt Chayut Chatitsarakul, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Regiment, added Thailand and the US are stepping up efforts to tackle new threats. “In the future, we plan to send officers to help those affected by diseases and outbreaks, including the ongoing Covid-19,” he added.
Cobra Gold, the largest international military exercise in Southeast Asia, wrapped up on Friday after 11 days of training sessions attended and observed by close to 10,000 participants from 29 countries. This year, the 39th Thai-US joint military drill resumed full-scale exercises after a long pause. It consisted of four core training modules — namely the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX), the AmphibEX amphibious exercise, the humanitarian assistance disaster relief field training exercise (HADR FTX), as well as the Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (Neo) exercise. This year, the US Marines brought for the first time to the exercise six of their high-tech Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, on top of their F-16 fighter jets, P-8 and Orion aircraft. In addition to these drills, Cyber Field Training Exercise (CFTX) was conducted for the first time. It was also attended by participants from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea.
As usual, the highlight of the joint exercise was the jungle survival course, designed to familiarise American soldiers with this region’s terrain and equip them with survival skills, should they happen to get lost or are assigned to work in one. The training has always been popular among American participants.