CAMP MURRAY, Wash. - Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment, Bear and Cobra companies, recently learned how to survive in a jungle as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2023.
“The Soldiers were partnered with a Royal Thai Army platoon throughout the two-week exercise. One week was dedicated to urban training and one to jungle training,” said Washington National Guard Capt. Ken Pfeifle, commander for Bear Company, 3rd Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment. “Although each day had its individual training objectives, the ‘big picture goal’ was to build interoperability with the Royal Thai Army and solidify our partnership, building the lasting bonds of friendship.”
The two exercise blocks ran concurrently, with soldiers from each company participating in jungle and urban training. During the urban block, Guard members conducted military operations in urban terrain operations, short-range marksmanship, counter-improvised explosive device training, room-clearing and a Thai-led combat field exercise.
Jungle training consisted of a squad tactical exercise, knocking out a bunker, clearing a wire obstacle, and tactical combat casualty care, weapons knowledge exchange, a known-distance range, and the bilateral squad live-fire exercise. One Royal Thai Army team and one U.S. Army team executed the live-fire exercise with alternating squad leaders, focusing on the basics of fire and maneuver.
“We were uniquely qualified for this, thanks to our recent mobilization to Poland as part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence mission,” said Pfeifle. “This training helped us emphasize communication techniques for lift and shift fire, controlling rates of fire and marksmanship. It was the one event that the Royal Thai Army and U.S. soldiers truly worked as one element, built cohesion and fostered trust.”
The jungle survival class, hosted by the Royal Thai Army, was the highlight for many soldiers. They learned how to find food and water in the jungle, make rope with vegetation, start a fire, filter water, and deal with snakes in the wild.
“Some of the soldiers were squeamish and some were stoic, but all were mesmerized by the demonstration,” said Pfeifle. “It was certainly a highlight no one will forget.”
Throughout the two-week exercise, Guard members shared their expertise and knowledge with their Royal Thai Army counterparts and with members of the active Army who also participated in Cobra Gold 23.
“Throughout the exercise, we consistently impressed our active-duty higher headquarters with our professionalism, tactical and technical expertise and the diversity of capabilities we bring to the table,” said Pfeifle. “None more notable than when their leadership visited the shoot-house during the second week on training.”
During Bear Company’s first day at the shoot-house facility, the lights were not working. Sgt. Brandon Myer, an electrician by trade, jumped into action and had the lights on within 10 minutes.
“On top of fixing the lights in the shoot-house, the VIPs in attendance were blown away with our work with the Royal Thai Army,” said Pfeifle.
While the praise from active and multinational partners was nice for his soldiers, Pfeifle said the relationships his team built were most important.
“This mission was successful because we invested in building friendships at the individual and unit level to bolster our partnership with the Royal Thai Army,” said Pfeifle. “It is simple things like trading patches and sharing knowledge, but it makes a difference and makes each of us stronger.”
The Washington National Guard and Thailand have been partners in the State Partnership Program since 2002. The 30-year-old Department of Defense National Guard Bureau program now has 100 partners around the world.