US Special Operators Train with Thai Forces

Airmen of Air Force Special Operations Command’s 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena AB, Japan, on the island of Okinawa recently teamed with Royal Thai military forces for Exercise Teak Torch. The US airmen traveled to Udon Thani Air Base, where pararescue jumpers and combat controllers conducted airdrops from a 353rd SOG MC-130P Combat Shadow. Some of the Thai jumpers had never jumped at night or into water. “Normally we jump twice a month, with this exercise we jump every day and are able to correct our mistakes,” said Thai Maj. Surapond Apitachapan. Language barriers proved not to matter much because “in the end, we all do the same job,” said Thai PJ Flight Sgt. 1st Class Nathaphun Junkeeree. The exercise also included emergency responders from both nations. SSgt. Sarah Valdovinos, a 353rd SOG security forces airman, called the event “a unique opportunity for us to demonstrate our specialties and train with Thai forces,” and added that “it’s good to know that we can all work together.” (AFSOC report by MSgt. Marilyn Holliday)