Team Hickam leads Thai, US airborne operation

  • Published
  • 15th Wing Public Affairs

Team Hickam led a bi-lateral strategic airdrop on March 5, 2024, dropping over 250 Thai and American paratroopers over Lop Buri, Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 24.

“Cobra Gold demonstrates the joint force ability to deliver aid or deterrence anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours via the C-17A [Globemaster III],” said Lt. Col. Dave Bennett, 15th Operations Group deputy commander. “Our ability to work with our Army and allied counterparts and develop the plans necessary to execute such a complex operation is pivotal to our success in future exercises and real-world operations.” 

This exercise, which was started in 1982, is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored training event promoting cooperation and peace, and allows the U.S. to train side-by-side with regional partners, enhancing a long-standing relationship with the Kingdom of Thailand.

“Bilateral and multinational exercises are simply the best way to bolster interoperability amongst partners, and we frankly can't be friends if we don't work together hand-in-hand,” said Capt. Joseph Carl, 15th WG lead planner. “Cobra Gold provides the best opportunity for our crews to work with our Thai partners in the air, and then follow-up operations with social events to learn more about each other. Working hand-in-hand builds upon the existing bonds we have, while also creating life-impacting memories for my team's participation.”

As a total force integrated team, the 535th Airlift Squadron and the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 204th AS oversaw the planning of the airborne operation.

“There has been a wave of talented individuals within the past two years that has seen the Hickam C-17 community taking the lead with exercise planning, getting after strategic, operational and tactical objectives while enriching the joint effort within the area of responsibility,” said Maj. Evan Kurosu, 204th AS deputy lead planner. “The individuals have a wide array of experience and backgrounds that are from both the active duty and national guard, planning and training together as we would, if called upon.”

Capt Carl explained that a major joint objective from the exercise was to demonstrate direct launch capabilities from Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, delivering paratroopers and heavy equipment assigned to 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 11th Airborne Division and the Royal Thai Army’s 313th Infantry Battalion directly to Lop Buri, Thailand, via air refueling with KC-46s and KC-135s from Air Mobility Command.

“We sincerely hope to increase our participation in Cobra Gold, as Thailand is one of our most trusted allies,” said Bennett. “The Royal Thai Air Force and Army are among the most capable forces in the world, and our team learns new tactics and techniques with every engagement. Cobra Gold has been a critical exercise for 43 years, and our intent is to continue participation with mobility forces.”