Thai and U.S. Marines burst into training
By Lance Cpl. Stephen Himes
| U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | February 15, 2014
BAN CHAN KREM, Kingdom of Thailand --
The sun peaks over the mountainous jungle terrain of Thailand, while a rapid burst of hollow thunks echoes in the distance.
The sounds continue in rhythmic spurts, then suddenly stop, followed by a series of explosions down-range moments later.
U.S. Marines demonstrated various machine gun weapons systems to Royal Thai Marines Feb. 12 at Ban Chan Krem, Kingdom of Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 2014.
“Today we are familiarizing both the Royal Thai Marines and Headquarters and Service Company on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, M240B, Mark 19 Automatic Grenade Launcher and the M2 .50 Caliber Machine Gun,” said Lance Cpl. Mitch Schenk. “We know the Thai Marines will show us some things we have never seen before so we are presenting something to them they have never seen in return.”
The demonstration, which allowed for the U.S. Marines and Royal Thai Marines to share unique tactics, techniques, and procedures while operating the different weapons systems, served as a means to improve interoperability and cooperation between the two nations, a major objective of Cobra Gold.
With the Marine Corps realignment to the Asia-Pacific region, it’s important that the U.S. and its allies are familiar with the different assets each nations forces employ, according to Gunnery Sgt. Arthur Abrego Jr., platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. There will come a time when the U.S. and its allies are working alongside one another, and they need to know how to identify and utilize the assets available to gain the best advantage.
The day started with classes on weapons nomenclatures and statistics, proper loading and unloading techniques and remedial action procedures to ensure the day’s training would be efficient and beneficial.
“We decided to present the information in a crawl, walk, run method,” said Abrego. “This is the same way we present the information to our Marines when they first see it. We do it to make sure we cover the basics just in-case the participants have never handled these weapons or do not know anything about them.”
The classes, enhanced by the range safety brief, emphasized the importance of safety while handling the weapon.
The Royal Thai Marines that participated in the weapons demonstration are all riflemen, according to 1st Lt. Eric C. O’Neil, a platoon commander with Weapons Company. They are unfamiliar with our weapons and, during familiarization, it’s very important to demonstrate the safety rules and miss-fire action to ensure the safety of everyone on the range during the courses of fire.
The U.S. and Thai Marines are spending the week training with each other in preparation for the culminating event of the field exercise portion of Cobra Gold, the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise.
“A rifleman’s job is to close with and destroy and enemy,” said O’Neil. “The role of these weapons is to allow riflemen to close with the enemy more effectively. If we teach the Thai Marines about the capabilities of these weapons, they will not only be more comfortable going down range with these weapons systems in support of them, but they will also see what a support element can do for them.”
The day’s training not only allowed both countries Marines to train professionally but allowed them to build personal relationships, as well.
The training each side has been getting is great, according to Abrego. The best part of each day is when it’s time to “break bread” and each side gets to know each other on a more personal level.
“We normally have conversations with them telling us how they execute combat operations,” said Abrego. “Then some of our combat veterans are introduced and explain various combat operations they were involved in. We are able to get bilateral, tactical training as well as a taste of their culture.”