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Friendship strengthens during JCET exercise

Two members from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces provides security as the rest of the team clears the rooms during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand. The scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Two members from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces provides security as the rest of the team clears the rooms during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teak Torch in Udon Thani, Thailand. The scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Combat Controllers from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron and the Royal Thai Air Force wait to complete a High Altitude Low Opening jump out of an MC-130P Combat Shadow near Udon Thani, Thailand, Jan. 28, 2014 during Teak Torch.  The combat controllers from both the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force came together to conduct friendship jumps at the beginning and end of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Douglass)

Combat Controllers from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron and the Royal Thai Air Force wait to complete a High Altitude Low Opening jump out of an MC-130P Combat Shadow near Udon Thani, Thailand, Jan. 28, 2014 during Teak Torch. The combat controllers from both the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force came together to conduct friendship jumps at the beginning and end of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Douglass)

Three members from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces come across an unarmed individual during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teack Torch, held in Udon Thani, Thailand.  This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Three members from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces come across an unarmed individual during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teack Torch, held in Udon Thani, Thailand. This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

A member from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces provides cover for his team mates during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teack Torch, , held in Udon Thani, Thailand.   This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

A member from the Royal Thai Air Force Security Forces provides cover for his team mates during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teack Torch, , held in Udon Thani, Thailand. This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Staff Sgt. Javier Nunez, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element team member, demonstrates how to search a deceased person during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teak Torch held in Udon Thani, Thailand.  This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron DAGRE Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Staff Sgt. Javier Nunez, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element team member, demonstrates how to search a deceased person during a close quarter combat training scenario held Jan. 31, 2014 during Exercise Teak Torch held in Udon Thani, Thailand. This scenario-based training gave both the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron DAGRE Team and their Royal Thai Air Force counterparts an opportunity to share different tactics and techniques. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Master Sgt. Jason Litz, a flight engineer from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, runs through his checklist during formation low level flying near Udon Thani, Thailand, Feb. 3, 2014.  The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Udon Thani, Thailand, to participate in Exercise Teak Torch.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Master Sgt. Jason Litz, a flight engineer from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, runs through his checklist during formation low level flying near Udon Thani, Thailand, Feb. 3, 2014. The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Udon Thani, Thailand, to participate in Exercise Teak Torch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

An MC-130P Combat Shadow flies near Udon Thani, Thailand.  The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Udon Thani, Thailand, to participate in Exercise Teak Torch.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

An MC-130P Combat Shadow flies near Udon Thani, Thailand. The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Udon Thani, Thailand, to participate in Exercise Teak Torch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Tech. Sgt. David Wheeler, a loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, drops a simulated airdrop training bundle from an MC-130P Combat Shadow over a drop zone near Udon Thani, Thailand. The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Thailand to participate in Exercise Teak Torch.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Tech. Sgt. David Wheeler, a loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, drops a simulated airdrop training bundle from an MC-130P Combat Shadow over a drop zone near Udon Thani, Thailand. The MC-130P Combat Shadows from the 17th SOS are part of the 353rd Special Operations Group detachment from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Thailand to participate in Exercise Teak Torch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Combat Controllers from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron jump out of an MC-130P Combat Shadow during near Udon Thani, Thailand, Feb. 6, 2014 during Teak Torch. The combat controllers from both the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force came together to conduct friendship jumps at the beginning and the end of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Combat Controllers from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron jump out of an MC-130P Combat Shadow during near Udon Thani, Thailand, Feb. 6, 2014 during Teak Torch. The combat controllers from both the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force came together to conduct friendship jumps at the beginning and the end of the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

A member from the Royal Thai Air Force applies a tourniquet to a patient during a combat casualty fly-away exercise during Teak Torch Feb. 6, 2014 in Udon Thani, Thailand.   Members of the Royal Thai Air Force and the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Operation Support Medicine, came together during the training exchange to share techniques in combat casualty evacuations and tactical combat casualty care.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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A member from the Royal Thai Air Force applies a tourniquet to a patient during a combat casualty fly-away exercise during Teak Torch Feb. 6, 2014 in Udon Thani, Thailand. Members of the Royal Thai Air Force and the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Operation Support Medicine, came together during the training exchange to share techniques in combat casualty evacuations and tactical combat casualty care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Members from the Royal Thai Air Force work together to care for a patient on board an MC-130P Combat Shadow during a fly-away combat casualty evacuation exercise held during Teak Torch Feb. 6, 2014 in Udon Thani, Thailand.  Members of the Royal Thai Air Force and the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Operations Support Medicine, came together during the training exchange to share techniques in combat casualty evacuations and tactical combat casualty care.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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Members from the Royal Thai Air Force work together to care for a patient on board an MC-130P Combat Shadow during a fly-away combat casualty evacuation exercise held during Teak Torch Feb. 6, 2014 in Udon Thani, Thailand. Members of the Royal Thai Air Force and the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Operations Support Medicine, came together during the training exchange to share techniques in combat casualty evacuations and tactical combat casualty care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Master Sgt. Scott Seamone, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, observes as a member from the Royal Thai Air Force 3rd Special Tactics Battalion directs close air support Feb. 4, 2014 during Teak Torch held in Udon Thani, Thailand. A team of combat controllers from the 320th STS worked with their Thai counterparts during the training exchange, focused on building skills in Joint Terminal Air Control. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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Master Sgt. Scott Seamone, 320th Special Tactics Squadron, observes as a member from the Royal Thai Air Force 3rd Special Tactics Battalion directs close air support Feb. 4, 2014 during Teak Torch held in Udon Thani, Thailand. A team of combat controllers from the 320th STS worked with their Thai counterparts during the training exchange, focused on building skills in Joint Terminal Air Control. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Staff Sgt. Zachary Asmus, a combat controller from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, demonstrates how to conduct urban close air support as a member from the Royal Thai Air Force 3rd Special Tactics Battalion observes Feb. 4, 2014 in a town near Udon Thani, Thailand.  A team of combat controllers from the 320th STS worked with their Thai counterparts during the training exchange, focused on building skills in Joint Terminal Air Control. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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Staff Sgt. Zachary Asmus, a combat controller from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, demonstrates how to conduct urban close air support as a member from the Royal Thai Air Force 3rd Special Tactics Battalion observes Feb. 4, 2014 in a town near Udon Thani, Thailand. A team of combat controllers from the 320th STS worked with their Thai counterparts during the training exchange, focused on building skills in Joint Terminal Air Control. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Tech. Sgt. Cody Lefever, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist demonstrates how to build a snare during a land survival exchange with U.S. Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force pilots Feb. 4, 2014 at a range near Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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Tech. Sgt. Cody Lefever, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist demonstrates how to build a snare during a land survival exchange with U.S. Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force pilots Feb. 4, 2014 at a range near Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

Tech. Sgt. Cody Lefever, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist shows how much water was procured from the plants during a land survival exchange with U.S. Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force pilots Feb. 4, 2014 at a range near Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)
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Tech. Sgt. Cody Lefever, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist shows how much water was procured from the plants during a land survival exchange with U.S. Air Force and Royal Thai Air Force pilots Feb. 4, 2014 at a range near Udon Thani, Thailand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kristine Dreyer)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined members of the Royal Thai Air Force for Exercise Teak Torch Jan. 27 through Feb. 7 in Udon Thani, Thailand.

"This exercise is conducted to focus on exchanges with our Thai counterparts in order to enhance interoperability through combined training with U.S. Air Force Special Operations and host nation forces," said Maj. Chandler Depenbrock, Teak Torch mission commander.

Throughout the 2-week exercise, different career fields from around the 353rd SOG were able to link up with their Thai counterparts. The cultural exchanges included aircrews from the 17th Special Operations Squadron, maintainers from the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron, combat controllers from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, Defense Air Ground Response Element teams, independent medical technicians, a flight doctor, as well as survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialists, all from 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron.

For many the first week of exchanges took place in the classroom while the second half gave each group a chance to put their newfound knowledge to the test.

"We focused on training for combat casualty evacuation and tactical combat casualty care," said Lt. Col. Mark Anderson, 353rd Special Operations Group, Surgeon General. "They trained us on local plants and snakes as well as their experiences in flood relief. Our Thai counterparts were actively engaged and extremely motivated, which made for a productive exchange."

After holding survival exchanges with the U.S. Air Force and RTAF pilots along with RTAF security forces, Tech. Sgt. Cody Lefever, 353rd SOSS, SERE specialist, learned that some parts of survival is universal around the world.

"Their survival school is very similar to our school," Lefever said. "All their pilots had an understanding of survival skills. We shared how to build snares, procure water from plants, build fires and construct ground-to-air signals while the Thai pilots shared with us their ideas and concepts with these same skills."

While learning how to improve their skills in their own career fields is the focus for both the Thais and Americans, there was more than just building technical expertise.

"We made new friends," Anderson said. "We were able to participate in several events outside of training as well, which solidified long lasting friendships."

"This is my third time on this exercise," said Staff Sgt. Michael Garrison, 353rd SOSS, DAGRE team leader. "We have good camaraderie. The Thais love working with Americans, and we love working with the Thais. These exchanges help us learn how to communicate better and that will definitely help if we ever have to work together in a real world operation."

While the 353rd SOG has been working with the RTAF since 1991 and has completed more than 60 training exercises together, the benefits are built upon each other each year.

"Being able to adapt and work in different constructs and different societies are skills needed while working in special operations," said Depenbrock. "Building these long-lasting relationships help us realize that there is so much more to learn. The cultural broadening that we get from these exercises benefits us all both personally and professionally."