Missouri Air National Guard members plan, participate, in Cobra Gold 2012 exercise

  • Published
  • By 13th Air Force Public Affairs
Nearly 30 Missouri Air National Guardsmen traveled from St. Louis to Thailand to participate in Pacific Command's largest joint force, multinational exercise, Cobra Gold 2012 (CG12), held here February 5 through 17.

The Guardsmen, from the 157th Air Operations Group at Lambert Air National Guard Base, provided command and control support alongside their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts and other U.S. Air Force specialties during the exercise from the Thai Air Operations Center.

"Nearly all of our AOC divisions were represented, enabling us to exercise with our multi-national counterparts the entire air tasking order planning and execution cycle, providing all of us valuable training together," said Col. Richard Chapman, the 157th AOG's Deployment Commander and Deputy Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) for CG12.

We put forth a team effort all the way from multi-national-level coordination and developing the CFACC's air strategy and planning, through the execution of the daily air tasking order."

The CFACC element was led by Air Vice Marshall Tawindanes Ansusingha, a Thai 2-star officer from the Royal Thai Air Force, who worked closely with his Deputy--Colonel Chapman. Within the Air Operations Center, U.S. personnel performed the roles for which they are trained, sharing processes and insight with their multi-national peers, many of whom had never worked in an AOC.

"Our primary focus was providing air power to this joint exercise," said Chapman. "Our Airmen worked alongside Thai, Singaporean and Malaysian Airmen to plan and execute the air campaign for the scenario, and synchronized our actions with our sister components."

He explained that another key aspect was the multinational relations. "This exercise is about relationship building. Working closely with our Asian-Pacific partners during an exercise prepares us to work together for contingency operations or in any kind of disaster relief effort."

The Command Post exercise portion of Cobra Gold 2012 was the only major PACAF exercise where the Air National Guard led the planning and staffing efforts of the participating air component. The 157th AOG has led the PACAF Exercise Cobra Gold effort for the past three years.

"Our involvement is a continuing effort of annual exercise planning and execution alternating between a smaller-scale staff exercise with a larger scale Command Post exercise like this," Chapman said.

The exercise is held at a different location each year. For this year's command post exercise, a small team of Missouri Guardsmen left the St. Louis winter early to arrive in tropical Korat ahead of the rest of their team. In addition to finalizing the logistics, they set up an operations area with equipment they brought from Missouri.

"Without a permanent, dedicated operations center, because of the changing exercise venue each year, we've learned we can set up a functioning AOC almost anywhere. The facility we were assigned is normally used as a barracks for Royal Thai Army soldiers. It was completely bare when we arrived," said Major William "Crash" Layton, who led the planning, logistics and facility preparation.

Everyone showed up with a great attitude and the Thai hospitality was absolutely outstanding. We all worked together to make the most of an unusually austere work environment for an AOC. Everyone had a good time despite the long hours and heat."

The 157th Air Operations GroupĀ is a component Numbered Air Force augmentation unit providing support to the Pacific Air Forces' 613th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. In 2011, 16 157th AOG Airmen deployed to support the 613th AOC in response to Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. Armed Forces' support to the Government of Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, 2011.

"We routinely participate in military exercises to hone our skills and gain experience working with our active duty counterparts and other nations within the Pacific theater. We never know when we will be called, but we always know we will be ready to respond when we do get that call," Chapman said.