ASIA 2005

Like so many great military Ops, this one, was also planned and delayed many times.
But finally the ‘D Day’ was set: 5 March and RV in Bangkok Airport.
Like always you have people not showing up. This time we had 3 and only one was excused.
To bad for these guys because it turned out a great event.

On the way to the Thailand DZ, Prachuap Khiri Khan, our ‘Group leader’ Stefan checked for a last time all jumps. We were all happy that everything was confirmed again.
After arriving in the Hotel, we met the Thai Air force Group CAPT (a rank between COL and BGENL) responsible for our jumps. Once again our planning seems OK.

Next day everybody was ready for the jumping and we take the bus to the airfield. First thing I noticed on arrival was that we had a very strong wind. Too much wind for jumping static or freefall.
But perhaps with a little time waiting thinks would change. In the mean time our Thai AF jumpmasters give us an instruction about exit the Hercules and parachutes.
But the wind stayed too strong and Plan B showed up: We would not jump at Prachuap Khiri Khan but in Phuket. But also there the wind was too strong and the DZ (the beach) was very narrow. Even the Skydivers didn’t jump because the wind blows in the direction of the sea.
So Stefan checked out for an alternative jump-day. After speaking with our friend the AF group CAPT we got following info from him: Next day there were no airplanes available but the day after there should be a Dakota ready for us and the day hereafter a Hercules again. Of course we had to abandon our cultural part in Thailand. But our main reason to be there was jumping. No problem with that.
Today we could visit the city Prachuap Khiri Khan and for next free day a former commander (LTC) of the PARU showed up and told us we could have some shooting at the PARU ranges at Hua Hin and Cha Am.

What first seems to be some hours of shooting, turned out on a whole day shooting with a lot of handguns: Sig Sauer, Glock, Colt, S&W….. And rifles: M4 (short M16) and some Pump Guns.
It was a long time ago that I shoot that many bullets with different weapons
While we were in Cha Am (Fort Naresuan, the PARU barracks), we meet the new CO and his XO. Needless to say that we have very good contacts with PARU now. For the ‘military attribute’ collectors we visit also the local military shop.
Speaking for myself, it was a great day with a lot of fun.

Next day we would finally jump. The Dakota was made ready for Static line. First time in my life I ever jumped from a Dakota. And that day I did it twice! Great experience for all of us I think. Unfortunately one of us gets wounded at the first jump. He landed on the Runway and wounded his arm. We lost a jumper but we got a great photographer in return.
At night we had diner with the local Commander (2 star general) and his staff included our friend the Group CAPT and all jumpmasters. We all had great fun with some stories.

We started our last day in Prachuap Khiri Khan. 3 more French friends (who first wanted to join us for Cambodia only) joined us for this last jump. Our Hercules was ready and we did a great jump.
After this there was the award ceremony. First our new friend the former Commander of the PARU awarded us the PARU wings.
To our surprise there was a plane flow in and a greet convoy coming from the runway in our direction. It turned out that a 4 star General with his entire staff showed up. Very impressive. He personally awarded each of us the Thai Air Force wings.

Let’s say that the Thai part of ASIA 2005 turned out better than planned.

In the afternoon we take the bus to Bangkok again to catch our plane to Phnom Penh the Capital of Cambodia. At the airport our one and only American member joined us.

I was praying already that we could this time stick to the plan. Even in the airplane I had the idea that it was working. I heard my French friend Major Leveaux saying we are even 15 minutes before on the plan. Yes, the airplane takes of 15 minutes before scheduled time. But big surprise on the runway: There was some problem with the airplane and the flight was delayed for 2 hours.
I was rolling over the floor from laughing when I saw the face of Stefan: Again another change in the program!
But after all troubles we arrived late in Cambodia where our LO (a LTC) of 911 SF Airborne unit was waiting on us.
The day after we took the bus from the hotel to Camp Agnosul. On the way we stopped near the DZ. Imagine dry rice fields and you have a good idea about the DZ. Next stop was in the camp where we were introduced to the XO (COL) of SF Abn Bde 911 and 2 more deputy commanders.
Finally we put on our parachutes and get in the Helicopter (MI-17). Because I am the largest of the group, I am most of the time also the first to jump. It was like this in Thailand and so was it in Cambodia.
We take of and fly to the DZ. From the air the jumpmaster showed me the DZ. To my surprise it was now full of people. Not only around the DZ, but also everywhere IN the DZ. I did a little prayer that I would not drop on someone. Luckily I did not. But I was funny to see when I land that a lot of children jumped on my parachute to keep him down.
We jumped twice that day and only one of use get injured. These time the one and only American.
In the helicopter we were mixed with Cambodian paratroopers. It was funny to hear and see it later, that the Cambodians were kicked out by the jumpmaster by a big blow on their ass!
That day we did also some shooting (Ak-47 and CZ-67) and rappelling from the tower.
After the jumps we had the usual wing awarding ceremony, followed with a party.
Following day we visited the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Also we visited a former prison from the Red Khmer and some places from the Killing fields. Let’s say that the visit to the Killing fields was very depressive making. In the evening we flow to Siem Reap for our visit to Angkor Wat. That same night we visited a Cambodian dance show. Unfortunately we arrived to late and missed a great part of the show.
For those of you we knew Ayuthaya or Sukothai archeological sites in Thailand, I can tell you that Angkor Wat is even more impressive. Something you have to see once in your life.
This was also the last day of our event. Next day we take our plane back to Bangkok. Some of us flew that same day back to Europe. Others like me, stayed till next day and made a little visit to Bangkok. Through circumstances we were to late to visit the Royal Palace in Bangkok (it closes at 1500) but we see the tremendous reclining Buddha in Wat Pho. We also made at boat trip to the klongs and see a show at the snake farm.
At night we visited the night market of Patpong. Next day it was time to follow my personal program. A group with Stefan made a visit to Ayuthaya before taking the plane to Frankfurt.

If I look back at these Ops, I can conclude it was very, very good. We got every jump we wanted and we make a lot of new friends in Thailand and Cambodia.
My impression about our friends from Thai Air Force, Border Patrol Police and Cambodian Airborne, is that they are very professional and motivated. It’s a pleasure and honor to jump with them.
If we can do it next year again, it will even better than this year.

Erik Mertens
Kapitein-Commandant (R)

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