MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 returned to Iwakuni Feb. 26, 2013, after participating in Cobra Gold 2013 from Feb. 11 through Feb. 21.
Cobra Gold is a recurring multinational and multiservice exercise, which takes place annually in Thailand, developed by the Thai and U.S. militaries. In its 32nd iteration, it is designed to advance regional security by exercising a multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia- Pacific region.
“We had three primary training objectives for Cobra Gold,” said Lt. Col. Peter L. McArdle, VMFA (AW )-224 commanding officer. “Number one and stated goal of the exercise is bilateral training with the Royal Thai Air Force. In addition, we had two other assets that we were there to support: 5th (Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company) and an Air Force (Special Tactics Squadron team) in their (joint terminal air controller) training in preparation for an upcoming combat deployment.”
This year marks the 180th year of strong Thai-U.S. relations. The U.S. has enjoyed relations with Thailand longer than any other country in Asia and both countries are committed to working together in areas of common interest for the betterment of regional security. The alliance and partnership continues to grow and strengthen.
“The bilateral training with the Thais was awesome and a great opportunity to further our relationship with them both personally and professionally,” said Maj. Matthew Brown, VMFA (AW )-224 operations officer. “This is my first time flying with the Thai Air Force, but there’s several senior guys in the squadron who have flown with them many times and it is very encouraging to hear them talk about how much better our relationship gets every year. That’s why we’re there, to build those relationships. So it was actually very rewarding to see that process is progressing.”
During CG 13, VMFA (AW )- 224 was able to conduct 450.8 flight hours, 230 sorties, and the squadron dropped ordnance weighing a total of 63,378 pounds. Even though the exercise was successful, the Marines didn’t find success without first working through some obstacles.
“A large portion of our gear was supposed to arrive in Thailand so we could begin dropping ordnance February 4,” said Brown. “That gear did not arrive until literally about midnight February 6. The ordnance Marines did an awesome job of turning that ordnance around so we could actually start training the next day.”
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 also held an essential role in helping VMFA (AW )-224 achieve their success from the exercise.
“We were only capable of bringing 10 of the 12 airplanes due to somelong-term maintenance issues, but VMGR-152 came through huge for us by providing aerial refueling at a level we weren’t expecting,” said Brown. “Their support essentially allowed us to fly the original training plan and hit every operational goal we were hoping to hit but with 20 percent less of our combat power. If they hadn’t been able to come through to provide the support we needed as far as aerial refueling, we would’ve flown 80 less sorties and probably 150 less flight hours.”
While numbers and statistics show how successful an exercise was, those numbers would be impossible to achieve without the dedication and hard work shown by every individual Marine.
“I’ve got great Marines and they do great things,” said Sgt. Maj. Patrick I. DeHerrera, VMFA (AW )-224 sergeant major. “They’re very proficient in theirjobs, they stay out of trouble and I can’t be more proud of them. They did some great things for us and to me, I think this is the most ready squadron of the Marine Corps and we proved it while we were out here.”