U.S., Thai Marines Storm Cobra Gold Live-Fire Exercise
By Cpl. Jeff Womack, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAN CHAN KHREM, Thailand, May. 19, 2000 The blazing sun and thick humidity possessed the air as a squad of Thai and American Marines prepared to storm a mound beaten down from mortar fire.
The Americans, from Company C, nicknamed "Suicide Charley," 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, recently conducted a combined live-fire exercise with their Thai counterparts. The unit, based at 29 Palms, Calif., is currently on Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program.
"The Thais appear to be disciplined, and our squad leaders have taken their counterparts under their wing," said Lt. Col. J.J. Walsh, battalion commander. "It's definitely an eye opener training with the Thais."
The live-fire exercise was broken down into squad-, platoon- and company-level attacks for the riflemen. In each of these levels, the Thais and Americans worked hand in hand.
The attack incorporated a 60 mm mortar section, a machine gun section, a demolition section and a sniper platoon. All these components engaged the targets to make the riflemen's assault on their mock enemy easier.
Among the challenges of training in Thailand, Marines here said the language barrier was the easiest to overcome.
"It was tough communicating with them, but after a few hours everyone started communicating with hand and arm signals," said Bronx, N.Y., native Lance Cpl. Guillermo Negron, a rifleman in the battalion's Company C.
Another challenge was the heat and humidity engulfing the training area.
"Humidity and heat are a big factor here," said Lance Cpl. Randy M. Unangst of North Ridgeville, Ohio, also a Company C rifleman. "It takes too long to acclimatize over here."
If difficult, the exercise also had the advantage of improving leadership skills, Walsh said. "We are at 37 percent (noncommissioned officer) strength in (that) company," he said. "In these conditions, this type of training increases camaraderie among the Marines, and it truly brings out the best in an NCO."
Throughout the exercise, the two forces worked to better understand each other's tactics better, making themselves a joint force in readiness for company-level attacks.
(Marine Cpl. Jeff Womack is assigned to Marine Forces Forward at Exercise Cobra Gold 2000 in Thailand.)