MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Four F/A-18D Hornets from Marine (All-Weather) Fighter Attack Squadron 332 and the associated flight, ground, and maintenance personnel landed at Khorat Air Base, Thailand, to participate in COBRA GOLD 2002, an annual, multinational exercise, May 13th.
For two weeks in the middle of May, the Moonlighters of VMFA(AW)-332 flew with Hornets from VMFA(AW)-225 Yuma, Ariz., EA-6B Prowlers from VMAQ-2, from MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) F-16s from the 102 and 103 Tactical Fighter Squadrons (TFS), RTAF F-5s from the 403 TFS, and RTAF L-39s from the 701 Attack Squadron.
COBRA GOLD is a combination of air-to-air and air-to-ground missions culminating in eight Large Force Employment (LFE) missions over the last five days of the exercise.
An LFE is an engagement consisting of two sides, Red and Blue Air, with large numbers of aircraft, ten to twenty per side.
The Blue Air tries to strike a target while the Red Air attempts to stop them. LFE's test the skills practiced in missions flown throughout the week.
"Flying with that many aircraft at once is a great experience," said Capt. Brian Smith, a Moonlighter pilot.
Another lesson learned from COBRA GOLD was the difficulty of operating so far from normal supply lines as noticed by Moonlighter maintainer Lance Cpl. Brent Stoecker. "It was hard work accomplishing the mission on limited supplies," Stoecker said.
Participating in COBRA GOLD 2002 gave the Moonlighters a chance to experience another culture and paved the way for future operations with Thailand.
The Marines involved with COBRA GOLD were able to experience authentic Thai cuisine, tours of Bangkok, and a trip to the Phi Mai temple ruins near Khorat.
These experiences give the Marines a better understanding of and more appreciation for the Thai culture.
Operating with the RTAF helped to break down the language barrier between the two countries and has made it easier for the squadrons involved to work together in the future. The RTAF was also able to see first hand some of the capabilities of the U.S. Marine Corps' combined arms doctrine.