LOPBURI PROVINCE, Kingdom of Thailand -- A daunting mission issued: Deploy a task force across an ocean equipped with helicopters, Humvees, hundreds of Soldiers, and shipping containers full of equipment, all during a pandemic. For the aviators and Soldiers of Task Force Diamond Head, composed of units from 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, the impossible was no sweat as they executed a full-scale mobilization in support of Exercise Cobra Gold (CG) 2022 here in the Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 22 through March 4.
The outfit, headquartered out of Wheeler Army Airfield in Wahiawa, Hawaii, boasts the motto, “Lele Makou No Na Puali,” We Fly for the Troops. For CG 22, they started flying months in advance with early coordination with the aviation elements of the Royal Thai Army.
“The cooperation between Army Soldiers and soldiers from the Royal Thai Army has been incredible,” said Capt. Frank Fink, commander of B Co “Knighthawks,” 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment. “With the RTA owning and operating UH-60 Black Hawks, our integration and mission planning was even more efficient during Cobra Gold. I believe these exercises in Thailand definitely enhanced the interoperability with our Thai partners.”
International collaboration was a key theme throughout Cobra Gold as it continued its long-standing tradition of subject matter expert exchanges.
“This exercise continued positive relations with our Thai counterparts,” said 1st Lt. Nicole Chrzanowski, a lead planner and battle captain with Task Force Diamond Head. “Working with their pilots allowed us to learn from a different perspective. Most of them are U.S.-trained at Fort Rucker, so they enjoy working with us to refine skills that they had learned during their time at Ft. Rucker.”
Task Force Diamond Head instructors lead classes on air assault operations, dust landings, fueling, and arming operations, all while maintaining 24-hour medical evacuation coverage throughout the entirety of the exercise. C Co “Dustoff,” 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, flying UH-60 Black Hawks, conducted multiple rehearsals of aerial medical evacuations and also worked closely with local hospitals and the Thai aviation team to improve their standard operating procedures.
“Lightning Dustoff has had a great time participating in Operation Cobra Gold 2022,” said Capt. William Buck, C Co commander. “We have seen the highest level of discipline, professionalism, and host nation courtesy while working with the doctors, nurses, and soldiers from the Royal Thai Army and medical community. Lightning Dustoff aircrews were afforded the opportunity to see Thai hospitals, meet with their staff, and conduct walkthroughs and rehearsals simulating the transportation of a battlefield casualty from the point of injury to patient handoff at the next level of health care.”
While in the Kingdom of Thailand, Diamond Head took their aviation support a step further and provided direct assets to Exercise Hanuman Guardian, an annual bilateral event part of the Pacific Pathways series and conducted in coordination with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command here in the Kingdom of Thailand. With HG 22, the aviators supported the 29th Brigade Engineer Battalion, a sister unit within the 25th Infantry Division.
“Both exercises enabled the members of the task force to support the three enduring imperatives for the battalion: People First, Readiness, and Training and Leader Development,” said Lt. Col. Trent Miller, Task Force Diamond Head commander. “This environment allowed junior leaders to get multiple repetitions in their respective areas of expertise with their Soldiers, solving unique and complex problems, alongside our Thai counterparts, to ensure mission success for the task force.”
As a relationship-building exercise, Cobra Gold also afforded participating units time to share non-mission-oriented experiences.
“The RTA soldiers have been very hospitable and kind,” said Fink. “They invited my crews out for barbecue and we competed with them in a friendly soccer match. We exchanged [physical training] shirts, flight patches, country flags, and I handed out a few company [challenge] coins.”
For Task Force Diamond Head, “Lele Makou No Na Puali” now means they fly for not only their troops, but also those of the Royal Thai Army.
“We are grateful for this opportunity,” said Buck, “and are looking forward to continuing to develop and strengthen our relationship with the Royal Thai Armed Forces.”