CHIANG MAI, Thailand – For two Elizabeth natives, providing humanitarian aid, civic assistance, and military training to a country known for deadly cobra snakes, Buddhist temples, and shrimp pad Thai, was quite an experience recently.
Marine Corps Pfc. Jair A. Daza, son of Julio and Emperatriz Ramos, and Lance Cpl. Jonathan S. Girona, son of Yolanda Girona, were two of more than 7,200 U.S. servicemembers involved in Cobra Gold 2011, the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. Sponsored by the Royal Thai Supreme Command and the United States, Cobra Gold is conducted annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. This year’s participants were Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, United States, and the Republic of Korea.
“I’m responsible for making sure all our data equipment stays up and running,” said Gorona, a radio technician assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
“My job in the field, as an electrician, is to keep the camp supplied with power,” said Daza, a 2006 graduate of Elizabeth High School. “We are the first to set up and the last to tear down.”
Cobra Gold 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the Cobra Gold Exercise and 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 toward improving the quality of life of the Thai people.
This type of training gives them a chance to improve their individual skills and experience the culture of other countries.
“This type of exercise keeps us familiar with our jobs and helps us maintain our combat readiness,” said Daza, an electrician assigned to the Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan. “Out here in the field you can cross train and get hands on experience with other jobs too.”
“It gives us a chance to practice doing our jobs in a field environment,” said Girona, a 2008 graduate of Abraham Clark High School, Roselle. “We’re also showing our presence in Asia.”
With its lush jungles, exotic beaches, and its precarious animal wildlife, Thailand is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the United States. Instead of the huge shopping malls that Daza, Girona and the others are accustomed to, street markets abound with sellers who pack their wares—a variety of tropical fruits, flowers, food, clothing, and jewelry, into small kiosks, bargaining with customers to get the best price for their items.
“The locals are very polite,” said Girona, who has been in the military for two years. “Thailand has beautiful scenery. There are lots of trees and hills. It’s very tropical.”
“It’s completely different from the United States,” said Daza, who has been in the military for a year. “The people are very friendly, especially the civilians. The marines are as anxious to learn from us as we are from them.”
In an age where it is just as important for countries to support peace operations, Girona, Daza and their multi-national military partners understand firsthand what it takes to bring many countries together to be able to respond to disasters such as recent tsunamis and cyclones, and provide humanitarian assistance around the world.
Marine Corps Pfc. Jair A. Daza recently participated in Cobra Gold 2011 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Cobra Gold is the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jonathan S. Girona recently participated in Cobra Gold 2011 in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Cobra Gold is the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
Navy Seabees and Thai Army engineers construct a new school building at Pa Ka mai School, Tak Province, Kingdom of Thailand. The school house is part of a series of humanitarian civic assistance projects in remote locations throughout the Kingdom of Thailand during Cobra Gold 2011. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Penny Mills, United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, speaks to a Thai woman at Wangchai, the day before a Medical, Dental and Veterinary civic action project, Khon Kaen Province, Khae Chamao District, Kingdom of Thailand, during Cobra Gold 2011. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Patricia D. Lockhart)
U.S. Army Capt. Stephanie Hall, right, veterinarian with Japan District Veterinary Command, examines an injured puppy with U.S. Army Sgt. Castle, during a Medical, Dental and Veterinary civic action project as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2011, Khun Song School, Chantaburi Province, Kaeng Hang Maew District, Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Patricia D. Lockhart)
A Royal Thai Marine shows U.S. Marines the correct way to approach and corral a cobra in the wild during jungle survival training at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand during Cobra Gold 2011. Cobra Gold is a multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
Royal Thai Marines show U.S. Marines and Republic of Korea Soldiers some of the plants that are edible in Thailand as part of jungle survival training held in Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand during Cobra Gold 2011. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
Amphibious assault vehicles move Marine 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 2011. Cobra Gold 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the annual, joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
A local food vendor prepares chicken and fish for the night market in one of Bangkok’s busiest shopping and tourism districts along Ratchadamri Road, in Pathum Wan District. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
Local residents and tourists place incense, candles, jasmine flowers and garlands, and young coconut milk at the statue of Phra Phrom, a four-faced Buddha, situated at the Erwan Shrine, Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Griffin)
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