KORAT, Kingdom of Thailand – Participants of Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 build friendships both while at work and during their liberty time. A group of Marines from the Air Combat Element (ACE) in turn work hard to ensure the safety of service members while, --
Participants of Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 build friendships both while at work and during their liberty time. A group of Marines from the Air Combat Element (ACE) in turn work hard to ensure the safety of service members while, fostering a friendly relationship with local establishment owners and the community.
“We’re not going out there with batons and throwing people out bars,” said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. James Miramonte, ACE 1st Sgt for Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 and courtesy patrol leader. “Our primary mission is (to foster) good relationships with the Thai people and ensure the safety of our Marines on liberty.”
Miramonte leads the all-volunteer courtesy patrol comprised of U.S. Marine Corps officers and staff noncommissioned officers from the ACE at Wing 1 Royal Thai Air force Base.
“The commander’s intent is to show the Thai community that we are making sure our Marines are good ambassadors,” said Miramonte, a San Diego native. “We are not protecting them from the people, but making sure they are doing the right thing.”
The guidance for the courtesy patrols comes from general order-1 signed by Brig. Gen. Craig C. Crenshaw, commanding general of 3rd Marine Logistics Group and special order-1, an extension of that order, signed by Col. Jeff K. Arruda, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group-36 and ACE for Exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
“Community relations is the CG’s second intent with the first being safety,” said the 38-year-old Miramonte. “I see the courtesy patrol at the tip of the spear to accomplishing both.”
According to Miramonte, the courtesy patrols, are like parents watching children at a playground, not interfering in their liberty time but just being an observing presence.
“It’s a positive program,” said 1st Lt. Aaron E. Brown, an air defense control and ground safety officer with Marine Air Control Squadron-4, Marine Air Control Group-18, 1st Marine Air Wing. “When they see someone in authority it makes them think twice.”
The prime example of authority is the simple but distinctive uniformity the courtesy patrols have by wearing matching blue unit shirts in appropriate civilian attire and keeping consistent members of the patrol who have become familiar with the area’s business owners to help build rapport.
“People recognize who we are,” Miramonte said. “If it hadn’t been for this small uniformity, we may not have even been recognized as authority figures and it makes it harder to show presence and make good community contacts.”
According to Miramonte, community relationships are extremely important.
“We develop relationships with owners,” said Miramonte. “We want the community to call us if something happens and before it becomes an issue, which happens very rarely. Just knowing that we can get out to the bars and we can respond to them if they need us gives them a sense of comfort.”
The patrol lasts for four hours and covers a 15-kilometer radius based on the liberty policy. They make random stops at approved bars, restaurants, clubs, and illegal or off limit establishments.
“We asked for volunteers and had planned to assign the remaining patrols,” Miramonte said. “But we had more than enough volunteers especially from the officer and senior enlisted ranks. They wanted to see where their Marines go and speak intelligently on where the best places to go are.”
The routes and places were inspected by Anti-Terrorism /Force Protection and Counter Intelligence/Human Intelligence Marines in cooperation with the local and tourist police. The courtesy patrol program has received positive feedback during conferences which is continuously changing based on requirements and they have even helped other units develop their own courtesy patrol procedures.
“This was the first Cobra Gold where I actually saw (the patrols) and their uniformity helps the presence,” said Sgt. Jason W. Tulowitzki, a maintenance control Marine with VMFA-115, Marine Aircraft Group-31. “I thought they were a myth and was always told they would kick you out of the bar. But that’s not the case; they are organized.”
According to Miramonte, he hopes to build from this success and create a standard operating procedure that can be used in the next Exercise Cobra Gold.
“People who participate in the courtesy patrol pass on the information and sometime even visit the approved establishments themselves,” said Miramonte. “I feel our mission has been accomplished.”
Cobra Gold is a recurring multinational and multiservice exercise co-hosted by the Royal Kingdom of Thailand and the U.S. designed to increase interoperability with participating nations by training as a multinational force that shares common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.
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