Amphibious assault vehicles assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) line up on the beach at Hat Yao, Feb. 14, as part of the simulated beach assault portion of exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand. (U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

GULF OF THAILAND - The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), comprised of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Tortuga (LSD 46) and USS Germantown (LSD 42), participated in a simulated beach assault, Feb. 14, part of the annual multinational combined and joint training exercise Cobra Gold.

Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) embarked helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), landing craft utilities (LCU), and a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) to participate in the simulated assault.

The amphibious vehicles used in the assault are all assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 and they coordinated the safe landing of the crafts from the beach.

"In an operation like this, the coordination between each of the landing sites is truly imperative, because with vehicles operating this close, the lanes to the beach must be clear," said Cmdr. Erik Nilsson, commanding officer of NBU 7. "We've been doing this a number of years and our teamwork with the Royal Thai Navy is always impeccable. Through a coordinated effort, we ensured the safe landing of every craft hitting the beach."

Fourteen AAVs hit the beach to begin the assault, followed by four LCUs and one LCAC touching down on the beach at the exact same time. The Marines disembarking the vehicles were greeted by simulated gunfire and explosions in order to create the atmosphere of an actual assault.

"This was my first time witnessing any multi-national exercise from the beach side and it was incredible," said Cmdr. Christopher Roberto, executive officer of NBU 7. "Between the waves of assault craft coming in, aircraft flying overhead and timed explosions, it felt like I was in an actual assault."

Multinational training exercises like Cobra Gold give Sailors and Marines an opportunity to coordinate with allies and partners in the Asian-Pacific Region. Over the course of Cobra Gold, Royal Thai marines and sailors will be working with U.S. Marines and Sailors sharing information to strengthen their training and cooperation.

"I think it's an awesome experience working with other countries," said Electronics Technician 1st Class Eric Peterson, an NBU 7 landing zone supervisor for this evolution. "There are a lot of similarities about the way we do things and I think exercises like this allow us to learn from each other."

The learning that occurs during Cobra Gold, through evolutions like the beach assault, allow both countries to gain a better understanding of each other and allows them to prepare, in case of an emergency, with a multinational response.

"Any time we have the opportunity to work together with our Thai counterparts it makes us a stronger team," said Nilsson. "And it doesn't always have to be combat focused; disaster relief is a big part of what we do and by participating in large exercises like this it builds camaraderie that will be invaluable if we need to provide humanitarian aid."