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NEWS | Feb. 28, 2024

Stronger Relationships for a Stronger Response

By Sgt. Joshua Oh I Corps Public Affairs

CHONBURI PROVINCE, Kingdom of Thailand – A joint multinational Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief Tabletop Exercise (HADRTTX) took place less than three miles from the world-famous, white-sand beaches of Pattaya City from Feb. 20 to 22, as part of exercise Cobra Gold 24 (CG24).

During this iteration of Cobra Gold’s HADRTTX, military leaders from nine different nations converged to discuss and plan disaster relief procedures for natural catastrophes within a realistic scenario. The degree of realism was compounded by the Kingdom of Thailand being naturally prone to floods, storms, and drought.

“Many nations have the full capacity to handle disasters, but others, under certain circumstances, may need international assistance,” said Joseph Martin, the director of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. “The program teaches how to engage with international partner's perspectives, the inclusion of friends, allies, and partners in engagement activities help Indo-Pacific command by enabling nations to be involved with the United States.”

Participants were divided into smaller groups and urged to communicate through their language barriers. This activity is also an exercise in partnership, readiness, and security between participating nations and a show of dedication to enhancing the relationships.

“In a natural disaster with an international response, everyone doesn't deploy speaking one language. They don't deploy with the same equipment. They don't deploy with the same requirements or the same capabilities, but they have to find a way to communicate,” said Britton T. London, Sr., the Advisor and Exercise Planner of Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. “We would rather establish relationships now early in these types of venues so that when there's a disaster that occurs, you have experience working together with people of different languages. That's why we said you have to communicate in order to coordinate, and without the first, you can't have the latter.”

This year’s scenario is based on a string of disasters that could theoretically happen in the Kingdom of Thailand. The situation was briefed beforehand as a flood in the north and an earthquake further south, which caused the Thai response force to be stretched thin. The scenario led to Thai government leaders requesting international assistance to contain the issues. Participants of the HADRTTX were challenged with multiple problem sets and charged with planning and executing humanitarian missions to aid the population.

“As of day one, we're talking about the initial onset of that and how they are balancing between the two emergencies,” said London, Sr. “Tomorrow, we're going to have some dams that are going to give way, and you're going to have major flooding on top of everything else that was happening. So now, what other kinds of assets do you need by international people that are going to participate in the response? What are some of the ways you're going to need to adjust? Tomorrow' is the big piece.”

All the work being done here by international partners and allies to train on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts is vital in adding protective measures that might save lives in the Indo-Pacific region.

“I think this is a popular program within the exercise, and people want to attend because we're talking about something that's very important within this region,” said London, Sr. “This is the Ring of Fire, so a lot of disasters are happening here. It's very important that these things are discussed.”