DVIDS – News – Washington, Thailand celebrate 20 years of friendship through partnership program

This year, the Washington National Guard celebrates the 20th anniversary of its state partnership program with the Kingdom of Thailand. It also marks the return to face-to-face exchanges between the two partner organizations.

“We found some creative ways to work around COVID, and we were able to bring our Thai counterparts to Washington state in the second half of 2021,” said Lt. Col. Keith Kosik, director of the Washington National Guard’s State Partnership Program. “However, it is nice to bring our people back to Thailand and continue the relationship building that we have been doing for 20 years.”

Brig. General Gent Welsh, commander of the Washington Air National Guard, visited the Washington National Guard’s two partner countries, Malaysia and Thailand, in late February. This was the Washington National Guard’s first visit to the region in almost two years.

“All of this Department of Defense activity makes our State Partnership Program efforts seem like small potatoes here, but we punch far beyond our weight when it comes to the impact and deep connections we’ve forged in 20 years of operations in Thailand,” said Welsh. “I tend to divide our program into three areas of responsibility: strategic, operational and tactical. We are doing a great job meeting them all.”

Welsh’s visit again underscored and helped pave the way for what the Washington National Guard and Thailand will be working towards in the future.

“I have met with senior leaders on both the US and Thai sides to ensure all policy-level conditions are in place for the next engagements,” Welsh said.

While Welsh was visiting the region with senior leaders, 20 members of the Washington National Guard participated in the annual Cobra Gold command post exercise.

“Due to COVID, some events have been canceled this year. However, we are beginning to return to a more normal combat rhythm,” said Lt. Col. Reena Emme, drill planner for the Washington Army National Guard at Cobra Gold.

Cobra Gold, which celebrated the 41st iteration of the exercise, is a multinational military exercise in the Indo-Pacific and one of the largest of its kind in the region. First held in 1982, it has enhanced coordination between the armed forces of the United States and Thailand in both hostile military and humanitarian efforts. This year’s exercise consisted of three main events: a command and control exercise, humanitarian citizen assistance projects, and a field exercise that includes a variety of training events to improve interoperability and strengthen regional ties. It also set expectations for the Cobra Gold 2023 exercise.

“The Washington National Guard will have a big role to play in Cobra Gold 23,” Emme said. “We will be participating in several major events, a command and control and field exercise with members of the 96th Troop Command, Aviation Troop Command and the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team.”

It’s been a long road for both nations to get back to a normal routine, but the desire to return to cooperation and teamwork between Washington and Thailand has never been more apparent.

“The Royal Thai Armed Forces are very pleased to be working with the Washington National Guard again,” Emme said. “Now that we are slowly returning to normal, we look forward to working with them and continuing to strengthen our relationship with them throughout the various exercises.”

This spring, the Washington National Guard Aviation will be part of a month-long, two-part exercise with the Royal Thai Army’s aviation units at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Fairchild Air Force Base, and the Royal Thai Army Aviation Center at Lop Buri. The month-long exercise will mark the first time that the same members at both sites have come together back-to-back to share issues.

“This is a unique opportunity to build tactical-level relationships with our partners and share knowledge and experience while learning about each other’s cultures,” Kosik said.

Date of recording: 03/22/2022
Release Date: 03/22/2022 14:00
Story ID: 416929

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