The 40th iteration of Exercise Cobra Gold took place Aug. 3 to 13, 2021, in the Kingdom of Thailand. The annual Thai-U.S. co-sponsored military exercise featured several virtual and in-person events with service members from seven full participating nations: the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore, as well as observers and additional participants from other nations and organizations across the region. As one of the world’s longest running international exercises, Cobra Gold is a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to Thailand and like-minded allies and partners, in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The exercise is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective responses to regional crises.
Cobra Gold 21 emphasized joint military training, civic action, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In Sa Kaeo Province, Thai and U.S. military engineers worked together to construct a new multipurpose facility at Baan Mai Thai Pattan School, enabling the school to welcome a growing number of students. The project was part of Cobra Gold’s Engineering Civic Action Program, which utilizes the capabilities of both the U.S. and Royal Thai Armed Forces to support local communities. This year’s exercise was carefully modified to mitigate risks of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Participating units coordinated with the Royal Thai Armed Forces to come together safely, observing strict protective measures. Service members abided by all Royal Thai Government COVID mitigation requirements, including a mandatory 15-day quarantine, COVID testing, temperature checks, and face coverings.
“Our ability to execute Cobra Gold — and its robust slate of exercises — in a safe manner that mitigated COVID-19 risks to participating nations and the Thai public is a testament to the strength of our security and health partnerships,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Michael Heath.
“Cobra Gold is not just an exercise, but it is a stage for building confidence and strengthening relationships among participating nations in order to maintain security and stability in the region,” said Gen. Suphot Malaniyom, Royal Thai Armed Forces Chief of Joint Staff.
“We appreciate this opportunity to once again join with friends, partners and allies here to carry out this long-standing multinational exercise, to learn from one another, and to further strengthen our bonds as military professionals. These bonds run especially deep between the Royal Thai and U.S. Armed Forces. During the past 40 years, Cobra Gold has served as a cornerstone of the Thai-U.S. alliance. It is noteworthy that, despite the challenges of COVID-19, our nations still managed to train safely during this exercise and accomplish all of our shared goals. Together we have shown that allies and partners can safely train together, even during a pandemic,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick Ellis, Cobra Gold 21 deputy multinational force commander and senior U.S. military representative on the ground.
The fourth annual Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Tabletop Exercise moved to a fully virtual format for the first time ever. From July 30 to Aug. 1, a total of 54 participants from nine nations discussed civil-military efforts associated with disaster response and assisting those in need. The event featured experts from the U.S. and Royal Thai Government, as well as international organizations such as the U.N., ASEAN and Red Cross and Red Crescent. In Surin Province, Royal Thai and U.S. service members conducted a landmine disposal exercise and unexploded ordnance destruction, eliminating more than 11,000 unexploded ordnance and helping protect civilians from remnants of war. The exercise also included medical trauma response training. Field training exercises allowed Thai and American troops from the Army, Marines and Special Operations to strengthen bonds, learn from one another, build interoperability and hone tactical skills.
Multinational teams gained experience in a command and control exercise – working together to plan and manage complex military operations as the headquarters for a simulated combined joint task force. Additionally, for the third year in a row, Cobra Gold featured a cyberspace field training exercise, with participating nations joining forces to share best practices for defending networks and operating in a modern information environment. Together they practiced small-unit maneuvers, trained on defensive obstacles and first aid, ran live-fire weapons ranges, and shared expertise on military equipment such as the Stryker armored vehicle.To further protect the health and safety of personnel during Cobra Gold 21, several major events followed a hybrid format, with a combination of in-person and virtual participation. These hybrid events included the opening and closing ceremonies, the command and control exercise and the cyber exercise.