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Thais, Americans join forces for Exercise Teak Torch training

Drop zone controllers head out to recover a jumper from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron during Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand. Jumpers from both the 353rd Special Operations Group and the Royal Thai air force completed daily "friendship jumps" as part of the joint combined exercise training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

Drop zone controllers head out to recover a jumper from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron during Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand. Jumpers from both the 353rd Special Operations Group and the Royal Thai air force completed daily "friendship jumps" as part of the joint combined exercise training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

Staff Sgt. Richard Holder cuffs Tech. Sgt. Gregory Stout during exchange training with ground defense forces from Udon Thani, Thailand. Sergeant Holder is assigned to the 18th Security Forces Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan.  Sergeant Stout is assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group security forces at Kadena AB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

Staff Sgt. Richard Holder cuffs Tech. Sgt. Gregory Stout during exchange training with ground defense forces from Udon Thani, Thailand. Sergeant Holder is assigned to the 18th Security Forces Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Sergeant Stout is assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Group security forces at Kadena AB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

Special forces from the Royal Thai air force prepare to jump from an MC-130P Combat Shadow during Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand.  The Thai troops and 353rd Special Operations Group Airmen exercised together as part of Pacific Command's joint combined exchange training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

Special forces from the Royal Thai air force prepare to jump from an MC-130P Combat Shadow during Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand. The Thai troops and 353rd Special Operations Group Airmen exercised together as part of Pacific Command's joint combined exchange training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

A combat controller from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron (right) gives the final count for a static line jump of Royal Thai air force special forces aboard an MC-130P Combat Shadow. The American and Thai airmen were participating in Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

A combat controller from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron (right) gives the final count for a static line jump of Royal Thai air force special forces aboard an MC-130P Combat Shadow. The American and Thai airmen were participating in Exercise Teak Torch at Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Marilyn Holliday)

UDON THANI, Thailand (AFPN) -- About 130 Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan, traveled to Udon Thani AB, to join forces with the Royal Thai air force for Exercise Teak Torch.
 
"The joint combined exercise training events are designed to enhance U.S. military training and are conducted in many countries in the Pacific Command area of responsibility each year," said Lt. Col. Toby Wong, 353rd SOG mission commander. "JCETs also enhance bilateral relations, contribute to regional stability and increase interoperability."

Pararescuemen and combat controllers from both nations conducted friendship personnel airdrops from the group's MC-130P Combat Shadow  throughout the exercise.

Thai jumpers, many whom had never jumped at night and some who had never been a part of water survival airdrops were a part of the daily airdrops.

"The first time I left the plane it felt good and then strange to land in the water," said Thai Maj. Surapond Apitachapan, Special Operations Regiment squadron leader. "Normally we jump twice a month, with this exercise we jump every day and are able to correct our mistakes."

Even though the two militaries speak different languages, there were no differences when it came time to exchange information and train together.

"When Americans want to tell us something, sometimes they must show us for us to understand," said Flight Sergeant First Class Nathaphun Junkeeree, a pararescueman from the search and rescue division. "In the end, we all do the same job, even though we are from different places."

Along with PJs, security forces and aircrew members were paired up for exchange training throughout the annual exercise.

"It's a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate our specialties and train with Thai forces," said Staff Sgt. Sarah Valdovinos, 353rd SOG security forces member. "It's good to know that we can all work together."

Emergency responders from both nations also exercised together and brought together medical, security and safety personnel.

The United States has participated in JCETs within in the Pacific Command area of responsibility since 1984.

The 353rd SOG is the Air Force's only special operations unit assigned to the Pacific region. In addition to the Combat Shadow, the group also maintains and flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II.

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