Friday, February 05, 2010

USS Essex Participates in Cobra Gold 2010

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Matthew A. Ebarb, USS Essex Public Affairs

GULF OF THAILAND (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) arrived off the coast of Thailand Feb. 1 to take part in exercise Cobra Gold 2010 (CG 10).

Cobra Gold is an annual, multinational exercise co-sponsored by the United States and the Kingdom of Thailand. This is the 29th iteration in the series and marks the 177th anniversary of U.S.-Thai relations.

"I'm looking forward to working with the Royal Thai Navy and Marines. They're one of our longest-standing allies in Asia, and this is a great chance to exchange ideas and examine other ways of doing business," said Capt. Don Schmieley, Commander, Amphibious Squadron Eleven (PHIBRON 11). "Through conducting operations together, we get to know one another. When you're called upon and you know who you're working with, it makes it that much easier to come together to get the job done."

Essex has the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked and is operating with the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67). The group is operating with military personnel from Thailand, Singapore and the Republic of Korea. The exercise aims to demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy a joint task force to conduct combined operations at sea and ashore, and will feature a field training exercise.

"This exercise will help the entire amphibious ready group team to continue to refine our skills, not just with ourselves, but also the Thai forces," said Capt. Troy Hart, Essex's commanding officer. "We have Thai officers aboard Essex working with our staff, and the Marines will operate with their Thai counterparts ashore during this exercise. This is an excellent training opportunity in every respect."

During the exercise, Essex will conduct naval maneuvers and training evolutions with the Royal Thai Navy and a Republic of Korea ship. One such event will be a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO), which is designed to improve Essex's ability to combine with partner nations to evacuate large numbers of civilians from threatening conditions due to a natural disaster or other catastrophe.

Additionally, multinational forces will collaborate in a full-scale, simulated amphibious assault. U.S. and Thai Sailors and Marines will conduct multi-phase operations in unison, demonstrating amphibious interoperability. For one Essex Sailor, the evolution will provide a chance to play a vital role with his countrymen.

"In addition to my duties as a watch supervisor in combat, I'm going to serve as a translator," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Warachard Warakanbancha, a native of Bangkok. "I like helping in any way that I can, and for me, this is going to be a very personal thing since I will be able to help out both nations. The United States and Thailand have a lot to offer one another, and I'm glad to be a part of something that demonstrates that."

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.