GULF OF THAILAND - The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) began its part in the U.S-Thai sponsored joint, multinational exercise Cobra Gold 2011 (CG 11) Feb. 7 in the Gulf of Thailand.

The militaries of the Kingdom of Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia will work with more than 7,200 U.S. service members at multiple locations throughout Thailand to improve interoperability. The exercise is designed to demonstrate the ability of the involved militaries to rapidly deploy a joint task force to conduct combined operations at sea and ashore.

“I think it is very important to renew our ties with the Kingdom of Thailand and maintain our strong military working relationship,” said Capt. Bradley Lee, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 (PHIBRON 11). “U.S. forces rarely act alone when responding to crises and rendering humanitarian assistance. Exercises like CG 11 enhance our ability to respond by letting the involved services learn each others’ philosophies and rehearse our integration.”

During the exercise, the ARG will conduct naval maneuvers and training evolutions with the Royal Thai Navy at sea while multinational forces collaborate in a full-scale, simulated amphibious assault. CG 11 will also include a staff exercise, humanitarian civic projects and field training exercises.

“Planning and coordination are very important during exercises like this,” said Lee. “We have the people, the equipment and the setting to make this a very successful undertaking. We can’t control every aspect of exercise and that is why we will remain flexible. I’m very confident that the team we have assembled will be able to carry out the mission and perform well.”

Two Royal Thai Navy officers have been embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) since late January to assist with the planning of CG 11.

“It has been a pleasure having the Thai officers onboard,” said Lee. “They are professional, knowledgeable, and have helped give us a better sense of situational awareness.”

The U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand have been working together for 178 years. CG 11 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote peace and security in the Western Pacific.

“I’ve been a part of the Cobra Gold exercise before and I’m glad to be back in Thailand,” said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Bryce R. Perkins, a Sailor assigned to Essex. “The U.S. and Thailand have a lot to offer one another and I like being a part of something that demonstrates that.”

The ARG consists of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) embarked aboard Essex (LHD 2), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) and the dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).

“There are things that each of our partner nations do well that we may not do as well and vise versa,” said Lee. “The main reason we conduct exercises like Cobra Gold is to learn from our partner nations. Sharing responsibilities and assets makes us a much more potent force.”

CG 11 will conclude Feb. 18 at which point the Essex ARG will continue its patrol in the Western Pacific. This year’s exercise marks the 30th anniversary of the CG series.

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force Seventh Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.