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Cobra Gold 2000 Links U.S., Thai, Singaporean Forces

By Sgt. Marcia Triggs, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand, May 16, 2000 – The 19th annual Cobra Gold exercise kicked off May 9 as seven military jets thundered over the crowd and 31 joint combined high-altitude, low-opening parachutists drifted down onto the parade deck here at Camp Wachirahwud.

The opening day ceremony demonstrated to the Pacific region that the United States, Thailand and Singapore, which joined the exercise for the first time this year, are working well together, according to Marine Lt. Col. Wade Yoffee, exercise action officer. Observers from the Philippines, Australia and Malaysia also joined the celebration. In a speech during the ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Richard Hecklinger said these nations may join the exercise in the future.

Cobra Gold 2000 is a joint combined exercise involving about 13,000 U.S. service members. Prior to this year, as a bilateral exercise, Cobra Gold had been designed to foster regional peace and to strengthen the Thais' ability to defend themselves and to respond to regional contingencies.

Exercise officials said Singapore was invited to participate this year as one way of making Cobra Gold more realistic and to help build stronger regional relations. They said the now multilateral training is designed to improve combat readiness and interoperability, to enhance security relationships and to demonstrate U.S. resolve to support its friends and allies in the region.

“This is a great benefit for Singapore and the other regional countries,” said Calvin Eu, Singapore’s ambassador to Thailand. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I think all the regional countries would like to see the (United States) play an important and strategic role in this region (to) provide security and effectiveness for continuing development.”

Cobra Gold 2000 is the largest exercise the U.S. Pacific Command is involved in this year, which is the reason they wanted to take a good exercise and make it better, according to Yoffee. One way of improving the exercise was by changing the focus from a wartime operation to a peace- enforcement operation and adding the planning and execution of a noncombatant evacuation, in which peacekeepers remove civilians from dangerous areas.

“As the first Cobra Gold in the new century, we needed to modernize the exercise and add elements that would allow us to work together as a community to solve problems that challenge all of us,” said Adm. Dennis C. Blair, commander in chief, Pacific Command.

Despite the changes, Cobra Gold 2000 continues its joint combined land and air operations, combined naval operations and amphibious operations. U.S. forces will also assist the people of Thailand through combined Thai-U.S. medical and civil affairs projects.

Participating U.S. forces this year include elements from the Army; Marine Corps Forces, Pacific; Pacific Air Forces; and the U.S. Pacific Fleet, as well as Special Operations Command Pacific, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and reserve elements from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

The closing ceremony is scheduled May 23 after a combined live-fire exercise in Khae Khae, Thailand.

(Army Sgt. Marcia Triggs is assigned to the Cobra Gold Exercise Combined/joint Information Bureau at Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution image U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Richard A. Hecklinger (standing at right) and Thai Gen. Mongkol welcome visitors to the opening ceremony of Cobra Gold 2000 at Camp Wachirahwud, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. Lance Cpl. Scott Whittington, USMC.   
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