U.S./Thai militaries host open house for local schools

by Lance Cpl. Mandaline Hatch, III MEF/MCIPAC Consolidated Public Affairs Office
U.S. Marine Corps

ROYAL THAI AIR FORCE BASE KORAT, Kingdom of Thailand -- The Royal Thai Air Force along with U.S. Marines and Navy personnel held Friendship Day, Feb. 13, to allow school children the opportunity to see some of the training the two nations have been engaged in here during Exercise Cobra Gold 2015.

Children from four local schools were welcomed to the event, a joint effort by both militaries, which included a display of jets, an MV-22 Osprey, a robot used for explosive ordnance disposal, a fire truck, and a U.S. Marine Corps martial arts demonstration.

A total of 281 students and 19 educators from, Suthampitak, Taharn Akas Bumrung, Boon Wattana and Yothinnukoon Schools arrived on the flight line for the open house to build friendships with Royal Thai military members and U.S. Marines and Sailors attached to Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force out of Iwakuni, Japan.

The students gathered just outside the flight line as an MV-22 Osprey flew in and landed. The Osprey was then tugged into place next to a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet and a Royal Thai Air Force Aircraft F-16 Air Defense fighter. During his opening remarks, the Thai Air Vice-Marshal Bhanupong Seyayongka, exercise director for the Thai Air Force element of Cobra Gold, addressed all those in attendance during the opening ceremony.

“The Cobra Gold 2015 is the exercise to develop the combat capabilities of Royal Thai Air Force and United States forces,” said Seyayongka. “The exercise also focuses on building good relationship between Thai youths by giving them a chance to learn and share the experiences from the personnel who have real military operations experiences. Moreover, it encourages them to develop their English skill and evolve it in the future.”

After the opening ceremony, the children were split into groups and escorted to the different activity stations.

“The kids are really shy at first, but once you crack that shell, they’re just like any other kid,” said the MAG-12 Religious Ministries Department Leading Petty Officer, Petty Officer 1st Class Cosme P. Rosete, from Waimanalo, Hawaii. “They’re really open to learning new things, and they really want to share their culture as well.”

The students observed demonstrations of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Aircraft Rescue Firefighters, and Navy Corpsmen basic medical procedures. They learned about the different gear and equipment used in the military, ranging from the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting A/S32/P19A fire truck to EOD’s improvised explosive device disposal robot, PackBot.

Learning about one another is one of the first steps to building positive relations.

“It builds camaraderie between the locals here and us,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Alejandro Paredes, of Martinsville, Virginia. Paredes is an MCMAP instructor with Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF, based out of Okinawa, Japan.

During the exercise, students may see an increase in military presence both on and off base. It’s important to show the local community what the military is doing here and why.

“We get the Thai’s and the Americans together and work on interoperability for contingency operations,” said Maj. Andrew Nix, MAG-12 Operations Officer and native of Fairfax, Virginia. “So when disaster does strike, we can work as two nations together.”

After a day filled with mutual learning, new friendships, and lots of pictures, students wandered back to their buses and service members returned to work, bringing this year’s Friendship Day to a close.

“I would like to thank all teachers and students including all related personnel who give full support and conduct this activity,” said Seyayongka. “You all pinpoint the significance of juveniles and retain our friendships between Royal Thai Air Force and United States Forces.”

Cobra Gold 2015 is a Thailand /United States co-sponsored, multinational and joint theater security cooperation exercise, conducted annually in the Kingdom of Thailand, with 25 nations participating. This year there is an increased focus on humanitarian civic action, community engagement, and medical activities to support the needs and humanitarian interests of civilian populations around the region.

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