Ashland participates in Service Member Exchange during Cobra Gold

by MC Seaman Kelsey L. Adams
Amphibious Squadron Eleven PAO

SATTAHIP, Thailand- Members of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and the Republic of Korea Navy (ROK) conducted an overnight officer exchange with Sailors of amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) Feb. 12 during the amphibious capabilities demonstration for Cobra Gold (CG) 16.

Service members from Ashland, Korea’s amphibious landing ship Cheon Wang Bong (LST 686) and Thailand’s landing platform dock HTMS Angthong (LPD 791), welcomed visitors aboard their respective ships. This event kicked off the amphibious portion of CG 16.

Lt. j. g. Dan Constanzo, assistant 1st lieutenant aboard Ashland, embarked aboard Angthong for two days.  During this passenger exchange, U.S., Thai and South Korean service members exchanged information, learned from each other and trained together.

“I think the interpersonal relationships that we built while face-to-face with the Thai and Korean Sailors during this evolution was key in communicating different ideas and to strengthening the bond between our nations,” said Constanzo. “Being able to have a face-to-face conversation and physically see how each other nation operates, allows the different ships to learn quickly and efficiently from one another. It always helps when you can put a face to the person speaking on the other end of the radio.”

While aboard Angthong, Constanzo was able to observe deck operations, a soccer match in the well deck, sample different cultural foods and he was invited to observe a RTN tradition that takes place prior to every exercise.

“We all walked to the top of a mountain together. At the top, there was an outdoor museum dedicated to their navy complete with a shrine of the father of the Thai Navy,” said Constanzo. “Before every exercise, Thai service members climb this mountain and pray for good luck and a successful exercise. Being there and seeing that helped me understand their culture and was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had to this point in my career.”

In addition to sending Constanzo to Angthong, Lt. Laura Lopez, the anti-terrorism officer aboard Ashland, embarked aboard Cheon Wang Bong to observe how they conduct amphibious operations.

“I feel the passenger exchange was successful because it opened up a quick line of communication,” said Lopez. “The best part of it was spending time with the ROK Sailors. We were able to have some great conversations, exchange information and bounce ideas off of one another in a comfortable environment.”

Cheon Wang Bong Sailors asked Lopez to compare and contrast the differences she recognized between each ship’s operations. Lopez felt that by participating in that discussion she was helping to accomplish the intent behind the passenger exchange.

“The goal of this exercise is to strengthen the partnership between the U.S. Navy, RTN, and the ROK Navy, to work together and learn from each other,” said Lopez. “While aboard Cheon Wang Bong I was able to explain to ROK Navy service members how the Ashland conducts amphibious operations. I was also able to share my observations from my time aboard Cheon Wang Bong with my counterparts.”

Ashland is assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and is participating in exercise Cobra Gold 16, a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational joint exercise designed to advance regional security by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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