U.S. and Thailand open Cobra Gold military exercises

Allies in arms. Allies in peace. With flags held high and rippling in the wind, soldiers and dignitaries from Thailand and the United States opened the 2019 edition of Cobra Gold – the largest multilateral military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region – at a Thai military base in Phitsanulok last week.

“Our nations represented here today have fought side by side in battlefields and have worked together in humanitarian and natural disasters,” U.S. Charge d’affaires Peter Haymond said of the 10,000 men and women from the militaries of 29 nations participating in the exercises that will run through February 22nd.

Among those humanitarian efforts was last year’s rescue of 13 young members of a Thai soccer team trapped deep underground in a flooded cave in Chiang Rai province. As the world looked on and prayed, members of the U.S. military took part in the Thai and multinational effort that resulted in the successful rescue of the boys.

“Seven months ago, Cobra Gold partner nations supported Thai allies in the dramatic rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team from the caves in northern Thailand,” Haymond said.

Aside from boosting the technical capabilities and interoperability of the participating armed forces, Cobra Gold is an important mode of building friendships between nations and good relationships between soldiers, officials and peoples on all sides.

Haymond added that the benefits of Cobra Gold had been demonstrated many times over the decades.

The exercises improved the responses by participating nations to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, and the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Gen. Pornpipat Benyasri, Thailand’s chief of defense forces shared the stage at the ceremony with Haymond and Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, U.S. Army I Corps commander.

Thailand was the first nation in Asia to sign a treaty with the United States. That 1833 pact was for trade and friendship, but ever since then, the two countries have been reliable allies in conflicts and peacekeeping.

The first Cobra Gold was staged in 1982 and was a bilateral training. It has steadily expanded to include more than two-dozen Asian countries. The exercises are always jointly hosted by the U.S. and Thailand and always take place in Thailand.