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Alaskan soliders demonstrate strategic importance in Thailand

By Bonney Bowman 10:46 PM February 19, 2014

During Operation Cobra Gold, soldiers had to parachute into the country, retake an airfield from a fictional rebel force and repair the runway for humanitarian relief

THAILAND - Thailand is one of the United States’ oldest allies, but that doesn’t mean working together comes without its obstacles.

A group of Alaskan soldiers recently went to Thailand on a training mission called Operation Cobra Gold.

They had to parachute into the country, retake an airfield from a fictional rebel force and then repair the runway for humanitarian relief.

Operations like Cobra Gold allow our soldiers to practice today, making a difference when the real disaster strikes.

“We are ready to go any place, anytime to do anything and those three things are uncertain, but what is certain is we’re going to be doing it with somebody else,” said Col. Matt McFarlane.

Col. McFarlane is the commander of the 4-25 Airborne Combat Brigade, the only paratrooper unit in the country with the ability to immediately respond to a crisis in the Pacific.

That makes Alaska an important strategic location for operations in the region.

“In mere hours, we can be wheels up from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and responding to any crisis whether it’s combat operations with a near peer threat or humanitarian aid disaster relief,” McFarlane said.

Working in the Pacific means partnering with military allies, like the Thai forces.

Maj. Surachart Ruanwong was part of a group of Thai paratroopers who came to Alaska, then jumped back into his country with the 4-25.

Serving side by side is a valuable lesson for all the soldiers in the field.

“I learned many things, new techniques and new routine for us,” Ruanwong said. ”We’ve never had something like this before.”

A traditional wing exchange ceremony reinforced the bond between the countries, made that much stronger by a successful operation.

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