ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE KORAT, Kingdom of Thailand --
Exercise Cobra Gold 2015 has provided an opportunity for U.S. Marines and the Royal Thai Air Force to train together. The result: improved readiness and ability to operate as an international team in support of peace and security in the region.
The mission of the U.S. Marine aviators here is to share, with their Thai counterparts, how they conduct close air support for ground troops. The Marines will offer insight into U.S. Marine Corps aviation doctrine.
“As a partner and ally, we want to make certain our training is exactly the same,” said Marine F/A-18 Hornet pilot, Lt. Col. Shawn M. Basco, commanding officer for Marine All- Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “So if we’re ever called upon into action together, we already have worked out all the technical bugs together.”
The Royal Thai Air Force has also been imparting their knowledge and skills to the U.S. Marine pilots as well.
“One of the things we learn most from them is their culture of flying,” said Basco, a Cleveland, Ohio native. “It’s effective, but different from ours.”
The aircraft used by the RTAF has different capabilities many U.S. Marine pilots aren’t familiar with. Some of the aircraft, they’ve never seen before so it’s important for the Marines to do cross training and integration to understand the RTAF’s capacities, capabilities, skills, and training methods.
“They’re not just recipients, they’re also teachers,” said Basco.
Along with the dissimilarities in the air, a language barrier also differentiates the two forces -- creating another learning opportunity for U.S. Marines. They are learning how important it is to get a message across as clearly and concisely as possible, no matter whom the recipient is.
“I know in a real world scenario, we will be able to work together, and we will be able to communicate despite the language barrier that exists between us,” said Maj. Ralph L. Featherstone, executive officer for VMFA(AW)-242.
Regardless of the differences between the two countries, they share a common bond to support their troops on the ground. Both countries teach and learn different techniques and procedures from one another to reach a common goal.
“Our relationship with Thailand is incredible, [from] our level and all the way up,” said Basco. “We, as a nation, as a service, and certainly as a squadron, are looking forward to another year.”
Cobra Gold 2015 is a Thailand /United States, co-sponsored multinational and joint theater security cooperation exercise, conducted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand, with 25 nations participating. This year marks the 182nd year of the friendship between Thais and Americans, and the 34th iteration for the training exercise.