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NEWS | Feb. 20, 2018

Cobra Gold 18: Japan, Malaysia, U.S. and Thailand Practice NEO and Rescue of Japanese Nationals Overseas

By Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian M Kinkead III Marine Expeditionary Force

UTAPAO, Thailand -- The Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) and Rescue of Japanese Nationals (RJNO) were conducted as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 18. The Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise increases cooperation, interoperability and collaboration among partner nations in order to achieve effective solutions to common challenges.

Governments around the world initiate the NEO when their citizens are in danger in a host foreign nation, typically as a result of a deteriorating security situation or a natural disaster. In 1991, multiple nations evacuated the Philippines due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

“This is one mission all of us can get behind,” said First Lieutenant Michael Simpson, from Lodi, New Jersey. “The ability to safely evacuate our personnel out of a country and get them back to a safe haven is a mission that all nations agree upon.”

The NEO/RJNO practiced at Cobra Gold 18 simulated the processing of evacuees. The evacuees played roles that military personnel then had to respond to. Some of the role players were told to forget important documents, others were assigned injuries or medical conditions and some were given VIP status.

The evacuees, role players from the participating countries, moved in stages through the NEO/RJNO. When they first arrived at the airport via ground transportation, they had their passports checked, and they received a quick security pat down before moving to the reception area. At the reception area, the evacuees were separated by nationality and had to show proper documentation before being escorted inside the hangar.

Once inside, they would go through their countries' screening and security process as well as fill out paperwork that would help keep track of them during the evacuation process.

Following the individual country screening and administration process, the role players were escorted to an area where they waited to evacuate from the airport.

The RJNO and NEO concluded with the boarding of evacuees onto their countries respected C-130 aircraft. They all then took off for a short flight before landing at the same airport.

“It was a phenomenal opportunity to work alongside our partner nations,” said Simpson. “I certainly learned a lot. There are difficulties with working with our partner nations, so it's good we can all get on the same page.”

By working together in events like the RJNO and NEO at Cobra Gold 18, partner nations are addressing shared goals and security commitments in the Indo-Pacific region while ensuring effective responses to regional crises.

Exercise Cobra Gold 2018 is an annual exercise conducted in the Kingdom of Thailand held from February 13-23 with seven full participating nations.

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