The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, finished participation in the 42nd iteration of the annual theater security cooperation event Exercise Cobra Gold 2023 in the Kingdom of Thailand, March 10, 2023. Cobra Gold is one of the largest multilateral theater security cooperation exercises in the Indo-Pacific and reflects the U.S. commitment to Allies and partners in the region. It strengthens the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined and joint operations, builds relationships among participating nations, and enhances interoperability over a range of activities. This year’s exercise included approximately 20 nations participating either directly or as observers. Across the joint services, over 6,000 U.S. personnel directly participated, with approximately 2,000 Marines from the 13th MEU and III Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Marines and Sailors with the 13th MEU participated in Cobra Gold ashore in both the Chantaburi and Chonburi provinces, and in the waters off the coast of Thailand. Key events from Cobra Gold in which the 13th MEU participated include a joint multinational staff planning exercise, humanitarian civic assistance projects, a joint multinational amphibious assault, a non-combatant evacuation operations scenario, a joint forward arming and refueling setup, and various field training exercises to enhance interoperability and strengthen regional relationships. One of the key events the Marines and Sailors from the 13th MEU executed was a multinational amphibious assault at Hat Yao beach in the Chonburi province. During the event, U.S., Royal Thai, and Republic of Korea Marines simulated an assault on to an objective, inserting from both air and sea, ultimately seizing and securing the targeted beach. This dynamic event allowed the partner forces to plan and execute a combined amphibious assault, as well as execute simulated casualty evacuation drills utilizing air assets on the beach.
The combined efforts for the amphibious assault included the integration of aircraft to include Thai F-16 fighters with 13th MEU F-35s, movement of U.S. Army High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems aboard U.S. Marine landing craft, air cushion vessels, and the joint employment of Royal Thai and Republic of Korea owned amphibious assault vehicles. The 13th MEU team also participated in a simulated noncombatant evacuation operation simultaneously with other participating nations, including Japan and the Kingdom of Thailand, across multiple locations. This type of training enables participating forces to refine command and control processes while fostering interoperability, and are critical in identifying issues in the process prior to a real-world crisis.
“NEO is a noncombatant evacuation operation, where we would fly into a country or location and provide evacuation operations to get American citizens and evacuees out of that country as quickly and easily as possible. Our NEO tracking systems use a computer database in which we input evacuee’s information based off of their passport, driver’s license, things of that nature. We would scan this ID and it would generate their information into the system. Anytime they go to staging or get to another country that has these entry requirements as well, they can pull every bit of information about this person that has already been tracked, whether it’s medical conditions, special needs, religious needs, anything you might need to know about this person while going into another unknown area,” said Staff Sgt. Abigail Hamilton, an administrative chief with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th MEU.
As part of Cobra Gold 23, the Marines and Sailors with the 13th MEU also executed various ranges and training with the Royal Thai and Republic of Korea marines. In the Chantaburi province, Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2/4, 13th MEU, executed a variety of combined arms, live-fire ranges with their Royal Thai counterparts. The Marines with the 13th MEU were also able to participate in jungle survival training taught by Royal Thai marines, in which they learned how to obtain water and nourishment through various vegetations in the jungle environment. At AAV Camp, U.S. Marines with CLB-13, 13th MEU, conducted maintenance and communication subject matter expert exchanges with Royal Thai marine counterparts.
This iteration of Cobra Gold also included a Combined Space Forces Component Command, the first time a cell of Space domain members of various nations and services worked as a component in a joint multilateral exercise in the Indo-Pacific region. Another element of this year’s Cobra Gold iteration was the defensive cyber operations training with eight countries, culminating in a cyber defensive training scenario simulating the defense of critical infrastructure against adversarial intrusions. The 13th MEU is embarked with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) and amphibious transport dock ships USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) and USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serve as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.