353rd SOG wraps up Cobra Gold 16

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephen Eigel
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
The 35th iteration of the annual Combined Task Force training event Exercise Cobra Gold 2016 took place Feb. 9-19, 2016 at various locations throughout the Kingdom of Thailand.

The 353rd Special Operations Group played a large support role working with the U.S. Army and Navy and Royal Thai Air Force counterparts for equipment and personnel drops as well as working hand in hand with the Thai special operations daily.

“We played a critical role with the Thai special operations regiment,” said Maj. Matthew Prochazka, 353rd SOG mission commander for exercise Cobra Gold. “Our 320th Special Tactics squadron worked hand in hand with them every day conducting military free fall and a range of other tasks.”

While continuing to focus on strengthening engagement in the region, this year, Cobra Gold also emphasized coordination on civic action, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with the aim of expanding regional cooperation and collaboration in these vital areas.

“Making an impact on the community was a huge priority for us coming into Thailand,” said Prochazka. “Going to the two schools in Nam Phong and Udon Thani was great, and I feel like we made a huge impact on those kids, and that it will benefit the community.”

In total the 353rd donated nearly $2,000 of members own personal funds to the schools through desks to study with and sports equipment including $1,600 for skill craft equipment to help with unfunded courses that teach them how to fix their own bikes and cut hair.

While humanitarian events were important, there was no lack of focus for improving capabilities between nations for joint operations.

“Our number one goal here was to continue to foster relationships with our Thai counterparts, and we did that,” said Col. Freeman, 353rd SOG commander. “We were able to come down here and achieve what we set out to do. It was really great to see everyone working together as one team.”

Cobra Gold 16 improved the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined, joint operations; built relationships among participating nations from across the region; and improved interoperability over a wide range of activities, including enhancing maritime security, preventing and mitigating emerging disease threats, and responding to large-scale natural disasters.

“We were able to complete all four of the major engagements with the Royal Thai Air Force that we set out to do, and that’s a great accomplishment,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gilbert Edwards, 353rd SOG command chief. “I am very proud of our guys, and everything we were able to accomplish.”

The exercise focused on interoperability of forces and operational readiness. The experiences gained from cobra gold complements the mutual training interests of all nations involved and the combined ability to respond to crises across a range of military operations such as responding to humanitarian crises like earthquakes and typhoons.

“We love coming here to Thailand and working with all of our partner nations to help strengthen our interoperability for real world operations,” said Prochazka. “We look forward to future exercises here and can’t wait to come back.”