by Dona Fair, Joint Hometown News Service
Chiang Mai, Thailand — For the son of an East Windsor couple, providing humanitarian aid, civic assistance, and military training to a country known for deadly cobra snakes, Buddhist temples, and shrimp Pad Thai, was quite an experience recently.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John E. Orellana, son of Alberto Orellana and Bertha Delgado of Twin Rivers Drive, East Windsor, was one of more than 7,200 U.S. servicemembers involved in Cobra Gold 2011, the largest multi-lateral military training exercise in the Pacific region. Sponsored by the Royal Thai Supreme Command and the United States, Cobra Gold is conducted annually throughout the Kingdom of Thailand. This year's participants were Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, United States, and the Republic of Korea.
"I will be performing intermediate maintenance on tactical vehicles," said Orellana, a 2009 graduate of Hightstown High School.
Cobra Gold 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the Cobra Gold Exercise and has developed into an important symbol of the U.S. military's commitment to maintaining peace and security in Asia. The exercise provides realistic training, improves efficiency through military coordination, and tests military operations.
Service members work on their tactical skills and test their ability to operate in a joint, multinational environment. These range from amphibious assaults to engineering and medical humanitarian and civic assistance projects geared toward improving the quality of life of the Thai people.
This type of training gives Orellana a chance to improve his individual skills and experience the culture of other countries.
"The exercise not only trains Marines, it also strengthens ties with the Thais," said Orellana, a motor mechanic assigned to Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to cross-train with the other militaries involved."
With its lush jungles, exotic beaches, and its precarious animal wildlife, Thailand is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the United States. Instead of the huge shopping malls that Orellana and the others are accustomed to, street markets abound with sellers who pack their wares—a variety of tropical fruits, flowers, food, clothing, and jewelry, into small kiosks, bargaining with customers to get the best price for their items.
"So far, the people of Thailand have been very hospitable," said Orellana, who has been in the military for a year. "We've been treated with a great deal of respect."
In an age where it is just as important for countries to support peace operations, Orellana and his multi-national military partners understand firsthand what it takes to bring many countries together to be able to respond to disasters such as recent tsunamis and cyclones, and provide humanitarian assistance around the world.