353rd Special Operations Group wraps up Cobra Gold 2018



Story by Capt. Jessica Tait 

353rd Special Operations Group  (DVIDSHUB.NET)

The 353rd SOG trained side-by-side with their Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) counterparts throughout the exercise, conducting formation and low-level aviation, military free fall (MFF) operations, assault zone establishment and control, fixed and rotary wing fires, rigging alternate method Zodiac (RAMZ) airdrops, an overwater search and rescue contingency and the staging of a forward area refueling point (FARP) for close air support (CAS) and assault aircraft.

“Building on our bilateral exchanges from previous years with the 3rd Special Operations Regiment and 601st Squadron, our training this year focused on increasing the complexity and dynamic environment in which we conducted our mission essential tasks,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joel Buelow, 353rd SOG mission commander for CG18. “We looked to enhance the cooperation, interoperability and collaboration of our forces in special tactics missions, formation flight procedures, aircraft maintenance and mission support functions. We worked side-by-side with our Thai counterparts throughout the exercise to increase mission effectiveness in our training evolutions and to prepare our forces to jointly succeed in real-world contingencies.”

The U.S. Air Force 320th Special Tactics Squadron combat controllers (CCTs) and pararescuemen (PJs) conducted programs of instruction on forward air control and overwater search and rescue, conducted live Forward Air Control with fixed and rotary wing fires assets, surveyed and established assault zones and exercised multiple MFF jump profiles for infiltration utilizing air support from U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon IIs.

“Embedded with the RTAF 3rd SOR, we advanced interoperability and increased partner capacity in the planning and execution of complex and realistic missions,” said Buelow. “This partnership has evolved over the last 19 years and will continue to strengthen for years to come.”

In addition to supporting airborne operations for Thai and U.S. special operations forces (SOF), the 1st SOS conducted a formation flight with their RTAF C-130 counterparts from the 601st SQN, air intercept training with RTAF 403rd Tactical Fighter Squadron and advanced day and night low-level aviation.

“The airborne operations conducted during CG18 enhance our ability to provide a rapid multinational response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts in the Pacific,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Howard, 353rd SOG air operations planner for CG18. “The experiences gained with our RTAF partners complement our mutual training interests and combined ability to respond to crises across the range of military operations.”

The military members demonstrated appreciation to the local community during CG18 by gaining approvals for a community relations event. The full day of activities included, opening ceremonies, sports events, a luncheon and bilateral friendship jump and aerial demonstration.

“To further the educational needs of the students from Sirijantaranmit School Lopburi, we’ve donated $15,000 worth of goods to include computers, printers, washers and dryers, uniforms and essential school supplies,” said Buelow. “Our bilateral friendship jump with RTAF 3rd SOR served as the culmination event to training and demonstrated our commitment to supporting not only the security of Thailand but also the community and humanitarian interests of a key partner nation.”

CG18 improved the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined and joint operations; build relationships among participating nations across the region; and improve interoperability over a range of activities, including enhancing maritime security and responding to large-scale natural disasters.

“Our RTAF counterparts have been amazing hosts,” said Buelow. “We look forward to future engagements here in Thailand and hope to raise the bar again next year.”

Cobra Gold is one of the largest theater security cooperation exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and is an integral part of the U.S. commitment to strengthen engagement in the region.