Local soldier participates in Cobra Gold 2010
By DONA FAIR, Special to The Breeze
UTAPAO, Thailand — For the son of a Fort Myers couple, being an ambassador for peace in a country known for its spicy cuisine, magnificent colorful temples and lush jungles where deadly cobra snakes are king, was quite an experience recently.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher A. Lay, son of Mike and Carol Manning of Fort Myers, participated in Cobra Gold 2010, the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. Sponsored by the Royal Thai Supreme Command and United States Pacific Command, Cobra Gold is conducted throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. This year’s participants are Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, United States, and for the first time, the Republic of Korea.
“I provide weather forecasts and assess its impact to operations,” said Lay, a weather forecaster with the Combined Task Force 76, White Beach, Japan.
Since its inception in 1982, Cobra Gold has developed into an importan symbol of the U.S. military’s commitment to maintaining peace and security in Asia. The exercise provides realistic training, improves efficiency through military coordination, and tests military operations.
Service members work on their tactical skills and test their ability to operate in a joint, multinational environment. These range from amphibious assaults to engineering and medical humanitarian and civic assistance projects geared towards improving the quality of life of the Thai people. They also practiced noncombatant civilian personnel evacuation operations used during disaster-relief needs.
This type of training gives Lay a chance to improve his individual skills and experience the culture of other countries.
“This type of exercise is important because it provides a chance to train with coalition partners and continue to build friendly relations while providing a positive image of the U.S. military,” said Lay, a 1993 graduate of Plano East Senior High School, Plano, Texas.
Thailand is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the United States. With its tropical landscape, exotic beaches, and animal wildlife, it is also sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the East.” With its canals and rivers, inland waterways still maintain their dominance over daily life.
Instead of retail shopping markets that Lay and the others are accustomed to, floating markets abound with sellers who pack their wares — a variety of tropical fruits, flowers, vegetables and fresh produce, onto small boats and jostle with each other for the attention of buyers alongside the canals.
“Thailand’s cuisine is delicious and spicy. It could be a relatively inexpensive vacation destination,” said Lay.
In an age where it is just as important for countries to support peace operations, Lay and his multi-national military partners understand firsthand what it takes to bring many countries together to respond to disasters and humanitarian assistance around the world.