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Alaska paratroopers land in Thailand

Feb 14, 2011

By Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead, 4/25 ABCT PAO

TADIA DROP ZONE, Thailand - Paratroopers with the Alaska-based 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment conducted a joint airborne mission Feb. 9 with members of the 3-31st Infantry Regiment, King's Guard of the Royal Thai Army.

The King's Guard is an elite unit that protects the King of Thailand, conducts airborne missions for rapid deployment and trains for infantry combat.

More than 400 Thai and American paratroopers jumped from C-130 aircraft and filled the sky over Tadia Drop Zone.

The jump qualified the U.S. Army Alaska paratroopers for the Thai army's airborne skill badge and earned their Thai counterparts U.S. Army jump wings. Soldiers exchanged the emblems in a ceremony after the jump.

To earn foreign jump wings a paratrooper of any nation must conduct an airborne operation under the instruction and guidance of a jumpmaster from another country. U.S. and Thai jumpmasters controlled the mission during the Feb. 9 jump, making it possible for both armies to exchange their badges.

At the assembly area, the Soldiers were greeted by the unexpected and welcome sight of beverage and ice cream vendors.

"Our commander wanted you Americans to be more comfortable with this heat for the ceremony," said one Thai soldier through an interpreter.

The Feb. 9 jump was the first of two planned in Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold 2011.

Cobra Gold is a regularly scheduled joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. Cobra Gold 2011 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to promote regional peace and security. U.S. Army Alaska Soldiers arrived in Thailand Feb. 1 for joint operations with physical training and weapons and tactics training. USARAK is part of U.S. Army Pacific, the largest Army service component command.

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