LOPBURI PROVINCE, Kingdom of Thailand -- The M1129 Stryker mortar system is an infantry carrier vehicle, descendant of the Swiss Mowag Piranha III, accommodating a 120mm mortar system that fires a suite of mortar ammunition and first employed in 2005. After 17 years, the U.S. Army is sharing this technology and weaponry with a close ally of the Indo-Pacific: The Kingdom of Thailand.
Here at Cobra Gold 2022, the annual international training exercise now in its 41st year, the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, shares the Stryker system with their partners from the 112th Infantry Regiment, Royal Thai Army, at the Fort Bhumibol Lopburi Artillery Centre Feb. 28, 2022.
“The Royal Thai Army chose to invest in the proven capability of the Stryker family of vehicles based on their proven combat effectiveness,” said Maj. Curt Belohlavek, the battalion executive officer for 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment. “The Stryker family of vehicles simultaneously provides a new capability within the RTA and improves its interoperability with the U.S. Army.”
The Kingdom of Thailand, which has enjoyed nearly two centuries of friendly and formalized diplomatic relations with the U.S., is the first foreign nation to ever receive these Stryker systems.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to partner with the Thailand forces,” said Army Lt. Col. Duke Reim, the 4/23rd Infantry Regiment battalion commander. “But most importantly, we get to create those relationships, those lasting relationships.”
This year’s Cobra Gold starts the process of introducing the Strykers to the Royal Thai Army with a series of training exercises and field missions at Fort Bhumibol, preparing them to officially receive the vehicles at a future date.
“The RTA has not currently fielded the M1129 Stryker Mortar Carrying Vehicle yet,” said Belohlavek, “but it is scheduled to start receiving them in the near future. Fielding the 112th Stryker Regiment is spearheading the ongoing development and modernization of the RTA by introducing new armored vehicles that significantly upgrade its combat capability and operational reach.”
The event additionally provided an opportunity for the newest members of the 112th Infantry Regiment to demonstrate their fresh skills and take the lead in moving the Royal Thai Army into a new era of regional defense.
“The 112 Stryker Regiment Team is a new unit that is still receiving new equipment and personnel,” said Belohlavek. “Given its importance as one of the model regiments to modernize the RTA, the 112th is one of the premier organizations within the RTA. The Soldiers and leaders from the 112 Stryker Regiment Team were handpicked to participate in the Cobra Gold and Hanuman Guardian exercises so that they could bring their new knowledge and experiences back to teach the rest of the regiment.”
The 4/23rd and the 112th practiced maintenance procedures, elevation preparation on the mortar systems, dismount maneuvers, and live fire exercises on the Strykers to hone their skills in a field environment.
“They're ready to do anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s maintenance or dismounting from the Stryker to pull security,” said Pfc. Charles Fairbairn, a Stryker leader with the 4/23rd. “You know, really moving to it and getting stuff done.”
Designed to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to Thailand, the field training portion of CG 22 encourages the U.S. and Thai Soldiers to learn from one another, build confidence, and strengthen their bond been developing over the years.
“They’ve been really receptive to everything we’ve been teaching them,” said Fairbairn. “Really engaged and I feel like it’s been working really well.”
“The fielding of this vehicle is strategically important because it further enhances the military alliance between the United States and Thailand,” said Belohlavek, “and signals to neighboring countries that Thailand is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”