CHONBURI PROVINCE, Thailand -- Areas of the world riddled with natural disasters and cursed by the secondary effects of mother nature’s wrath demand a responsive force that thinks, trains and plans ahead.
An exercise bringing together those very forces from 18 nations’ military and government organizations kicked off Sept. 5, 2016 at 14th Military Circle, Chonburi Province, Thailand. ASEAN Exercise 16-3 commenced with a fitting demonstration of an earthquake-induced collapsed building Search and Rescue operation.
Helicopters from Japan, Russia, Singapore and Thailand roared toward the airfield, dispatching fast-rope rescue teams and airlifting casualties. Meanwhile, teams on the ground moved casualties from the “hot zone,” a simulated collapsing building, to the “warm zone,” the immediate safety of an open field, and triaged according to casualty condition.
Teams from the Indian Army, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and Royal Thai Army moved casualties secured on backboards swiftly to the pickup zone or field hospital. It was a grand display of pre-planned, coordinated and rehearsed disaster response, reinforcing the pay-off of the very familiarity and training this exercise will focus on.
“This exercise is intended to foster cooperation and to share experience, information and skills among military medics of the ASEAN member states and plus countries, while fostering capabilities of military units in the region through joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” said General Prawit Wongsuwon, Kingdom of Thailand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, during the opening ceremony.
AEx 16-3 is an opportunity for different nations to apply and hone common standard operating procedures and diversify each other’s capabilities for the inevitable calamities of the volatile Indo-Asia-Pacific.
A U.S. contingent of approximately 25 personnel from U.S. Pacific Command; U.S. Army Pacific; U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and Pacific Air Forces will work alongside the other nations in both the command post and field training exercises conducting medical planning, air medical evacuation, military medicine and chemical/ biological/ radiological/ nuclear defense.
Approximately 2,000 personnel are participating in the exercise from the 10 ASEAN member states Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam and “plus” countries Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Russia.
"This is considered an important milestone of defense cooperation," Wongsuwon lauded the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus program, which, "which helps maintain peace, stability and security in the region."
Humbling reminders of the significance of combined joint disaster response training come in the form of approximately 100 natural disasters on average each year in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Sharing and honing real-world, on the ground, tactical and operational response capabilities facilitates effective, efficient response in a merciless environment.