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NEWS | Feb. 5, 2010

Army Guard engineers support Cobra Gold 2010

By Staff Sgt. Crista Yazzie U.S. Army, Pacific, Public Affairs

UTAPAO, Thailand - When engineering units from the Royal Thai armed forces, Indonesian army, and U.S armed forces were shuffled and dealt like a deck of cards to five construction sites throughout Central Thailand, planners for Exercise Cobra Gold 2010 hoped each site yielded a winning hand.

For the first time at Cobra Gold, an annual multinational training exercise now in its 29th iteration, personnel from different units are divided and parceled out to five Engineering Civic Action Program sites, allowing teams from various service components and cultures to work together toward a common goal; construct multipurpose buildings for schools in rural areas.

Dividing the units was a Pacific Command initiative, said Maj. Carl Beury, U.S. Army Pacific Civil Affairs operations officer and lead planner for the ENCAP projects.

"PACOM wanted to match or exchange tactics, techniques and procedures between the service components as well as share construction standards, and have a cultural exchange in the process," he said.

Having the U.S. forces work, live, train and eat with their Thai, Korean and Indonesian counterparts helped them become a community, said Beury.

"We are really fortunate to be here working together sharing skills; even when we are off duty we continue to learn from each other," said U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Slater, a carpenter assigned to the 176th Engineer Company of the Washington National Guard.

"The guys get along pretty well," said Capt. David W. Meyer, company commander of the 176th Engineering Company. "We sometimes initially disagree on the best way to do a task, but we come to some middle ground. Sometimes they'll do something that our guys hadn't thought of and sometimes the other way around," said Meyer. "One thing we're learning is there are many ways to the same end."

Mixing units among various sites is also not the norm for the Royal Thai armed forces, but met with positive response.

"Normally for construction work, it's only my unit at one site, " said Royal Thai army, Lt. Col. ChockChai Thonjunta, officer-in-charge, Mobile Deployable Unit-13. "There aren't problems because of the split, instead, we have to learn to work together better. It's better training this way because they learn techniques from each other and they train together."

Beury concurred with the positive responses from the sites. "Initially there were reservations among both myself and service components about doing the training this way, but we charged forward and made it happen," said Beury. "It has worked out very well in terms of execution and satisfaction of participants."