By Dona Fair
UTAPAO, Thailand – For the daughter of an Elizabeth woman, being an ambassador for peace in a country known for its spicy cuisine, magnificent colorful temples, and lush jungles where deadly cobra snakes are king, was quite an experience recently.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Myriam Gonzalez, daughter of Mery E. Solis of Elizabeth, participated in Cobra Gold 2010, the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. Sponsored by the Royal Thai Supreme Command and United States Pacific Command, Cobra Gold is conducted throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. This year’s participants are Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, United States, and for the first time, the Republic of Korea.
“I am a humanitarian civil action liaison officer, working between the humanitarian construction sites and the tactical operations office,” said Gonzalez, who is assigned to the 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Depot Sagamihara, Japan. I update information and brief higher officers from different countries about the construction sites and medical operations in different parts of Thailand.”
Since its inception in 1982, Cobra Gold has developed into an important symbol of the U.S. military’s commitment to maintaining peace and security in Asia. The exercise provides realistic training, improves efficiency through military coordination, and tests military operations.
Service members work on their tactical skills and test their ability to operate in a joint, multinational environment. These range from amphibious assaults to engineering and medical humanitarian and civic assistance projects geared towards improving the quality of life of the Thai people. They also practiced noncombatant civilian personnel evacuation operations used during disaster-relief needs.
This type of training gives Gonzalez a chance to improve her individual skills and experience the culture of other countries.
“This type of exercise is important because we train with different countries, but the most important part to me is the humanitarian part,” said Gonzalez.
Thailand is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the United States. With its tropical landscape, exotic beaches, and animal wildlife, it is also sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East.” With its canals and rivers, inland waterways still maintain their dominance over daily life.
Instead of retail shopping markets that Gonzalez and the others are accustomed to, floating markets abound with sellers who pack their wares—a variety of tropical fruits, flowers, vegetables, and fresh produce, onto small boats and jostle with each other for the attention of buyers alongside the canals.
“The people of Thailand are very friendly and the food is excellent (spicy but good). The thing that has left a lasting impression on me is seeing monks begging for food,” said Gonzalez, who has been in the military for 22 years.
In an age where it is just as important for countries to support peace operations, Gonzalez and her multi-national military partners understand firsthand what it takes to bring many countries together to respond to disasters and humanitarian assistance around the world.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Myriam Gonzalez recently participated in Cobra Gold 2010 in Utapao, Thailand. Cobra Gold is the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
U.S. Army soldiers set up the command headquarters at Camp Red Horse, Utapao, Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2010. Cobra Gold is a multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
Amphibious assault vehicles move Marines and Naval forces of the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and United States into position to clear the beach of any hostile forces at Hat Yao Beach, Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2010. Cobra Gold 2010 marks the 29th anniversary of the annual, joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, Japan, conduct an after action review after performing a beach landing at Hat Yao Beach, Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2010. Cobra Gold is a multinational exercise focusing on forces from throughout the Pacific region. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
Navy sailors direct an inbound CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter to a landing zone aboard the USS Essex. Cobra Gold 10 is an annual joint and coalition multinational exercise, and is the latest in the continuing series of U.S.-Thai military exercises designed to ensure regional peace and stability. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
A Royal Thai Marine shows a U.S. Army soldier the correct way to approach and corral a cobra in the wild during Cobra Gold 2010. Cobra Gold is a multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
Local residents visit the Floating Markets in Pattaya Beach, Thailand, for food and shopping. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, has served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand since the 18th Century. Thailand is an independent kingdom that borders Burma, Laos, and Cambodia in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Benjamin Faske)
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