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Washington National Guard support Cobra Gold STAFFEX

While other exercise Cobra Gold participants jumped from planes, fired howitzers and performed disaster relief training, leaders and planners faced a less-tangible challenge.

The staff exercise (STAFFEX) portion of Cobra Gold took place from Feb. 27 to Mar. 10, 2023, on Camp Red Horse, Utapao, Kingdom of Thailand. Leaders and staff from participating nations gathered to conduct the planning stages of multinational operations across multiple domains. The STAFFEX was part of the 42nd iteration of exercise Cobra Gold, an exerciseheld annually in the Kingdom of Thailand to promote regional peace and security.

During the STAFFEX, participants plan missions, react to unforeseen events and work together towards a common goal. This year’s STAFFEX included participants from the Kingdom of Thailand, the U.S., Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

“I always enjoy working with our different coalition counter-parts as it brings different perspectives on how to address a specific problem set, said Maj. Taihei Hongo, an information officer with the Washington National Guard. Hongo served as the information operations / cyber planner for the Combined Army Forces which provides staff support for all ground operations involving Army elements. “We are always looking to improve our processes and this is one way to bring in new and different experiences to address a challenging and evolving global environment.”

Back in Washington, Hongo works as the operations chief for the Washington National Guard’s 10th Homeland Response Force (HRF), a regionally-aligned joint disaster response asset specially trained and equipped to support civil authorities during a natural, man-made or terrorist-initiated CBRN disasters. Working with the 10th HRF prepared Hongo for his role in the STAFFEX.

“The Multinational Force Planning Process that we followed during the exercise mirrored the same Joint Planning Process that we normally use at the HRF,” said Hongo. “There are differences in the HRF’s support to domestic operations versus Cobra Gold’s multinational force-on-force scenario, however the baseline process is the same.”

Whether STAFFEX components are planning for noncombatant evacuation operations, the deployment of ground forces or humanitarian aid, the end goal is always the same: building better communication and stronger relationships between nations.

“There are countless natural disasters and hazardous events that can result in a the loss of life and propagate human suffering,” said Hongo. “In all of these instances, natural disasters do not recognize international borders. “We work hard to prepare our organization so that we can respond and mitigate that painful experience for as many people as possible. These types of planning exercises build the relationships necessary with our key partners to ensure the community’s success prior to the actual event."

Story by Staff Sgt. Adeline Witherspoon