353rd SOG volunteers at local schools for Cobra Gold 16

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen G. Eigel
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group volunteered at the Nong-wha Nong-Yai and Nong-no Wittayakan schools in Thailand during community relations events at exercise Cobra Gold 16, Feb. 15 and 16.

Cobra Gold 16 includes an increased focus on Humanitarian Civic Action, community engagement, and medical activities conducted during the exercise to support the needs and humanitarian interests of civilian populations around the region.

Lt. Col. David Lucas, 1st Special Operations Squadron pilot, worked with Airmen from the 353rd SOG to make this event possible. The children at the schools were excited to interact and play with U.S. service members.

“When we come to visit, it is always a big hit with the children,” said Lucas. “Today, we had such a blast with the school. When the Airmen got out of the vehicles, the children’s faces just lit up with huge smiles.”

The COMREL events conducted during CG16 demonstrate a mutual commitment to support security and humanitarian interests of friends and partner nations. The programs will improve the quality of life, as well as the general health and welfare of civilian residents in the exercise areas.
During the events members of the 353rd SOG were able to play sports, dance and even sing karaoke with the students.

“Those kids crushed us in soccer,” said Lucas. “It was awesome to see how much talent they have at such a young age.”

All in all the 353rd SOG donated nearly $2,000 to the schools through desks to study with, sports equipment as well as $1,600 for skill craft equipment for unfunded courses that teach them how to fix their own bikes and cut hair.

“I love doing stuff with the kids and for schools,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon LaFayette, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron weather technician. “Seeing them get to have fun and enjoy playing games with us makes everyone’s day better, including ours.”

The 353rd SOG is participating in exercise Cobra Gold 16. In its 35th iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to regional crises by bringing together a robust combined task force from partner nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.