The US sent its biggest force in years to an Asian military exercise where Marines learn how to storm beaches and drink snake blood — and the photos are awesome

U.S. Marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the

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U.S. Marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 16, 2018.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

The US Marine Corps sent a massive amount of Marines to Thailand for the annual Cobra Gold military drill, an exercise that has been held in Thailand almost every year since 1982.

The exercise was originally intended to strengthen relations between the US and its oldest ally in South East Asia, but has since turned into a drill for multiple nations in the region. This year, 11,075 personnel from 29 countries will participate.

The US nearly doubled its own contribution to the exercise this year, with 6,800 personnel participating. The increase is likely due to the threat of a more powerful China.

“This exercise is the largest multilateral exercise in the Indo-Pacific region. It speaks to the commitment of the US in the region,” Steve Castonguay, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok, said.

Take a look at the awesome photos from the exercise here:


Amphibious assault drills are the main focus of Cobra Gold, like this beach assault in 2017.

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Thai Marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2017” (CG17) joint military exercise with the U.S. at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand February 16, 2017.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

They were also included in the drills this year. As amphibious assault vehicles approach beaches, they fire smoke screens to make it more difficult to target them.


Here’s a view of the assault from behind.

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Officers from participating nations watch an amphibious assault drill during Exercise Cobra Gold 18, Hat Yao, Thailand, February 17, 2018.
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US Marine Corps

And as it creeps up to the beach.


As they hit the beach, the Marines exit the protection of the armored vehicles and assault the beach on foot.


Marines from South Korea played a large role in this year’s exercises, amid growing tensions with North Korea.

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South Korean marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 16, 2018.
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Reuters

As Marines gain ground, helicopters fly in more troops beyond the shoreline to surround any enemy defenders and to provide cover for those on the beach.


Larger helicopters can be called in to drop off even more troops, vehicles, and supplies to allied forces.

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Reuters

Once on the beach, it’s time to take out the guns.

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South Korean marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 16, 2018.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

And explosives.


It gets pretty intense.


US Marines nearly doubled their contribution to the drills this year.


The increase in troops is likely intended to show China and critics that the US still maintains a large presence in the Pacific.

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U.S. Marines participate in an amphibious assault exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 16, 2018.
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Reuters

Jungle exercises are also part of Cobra Gold. An important element is learning how to survive on the wildlife in the jungle.

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A Thai Navy instructor demonstrates how to catch a snake during a jungle survival exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 19, 2018.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Drinking snake blood is a very common part of Cobra Gold, with Marines from around the world having to cut off the heads of cobras, and drink up as much blood as they can.

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A U.S. Marine drinks the blood of a cobra during a jungle survival exercise with the Thai Navy as part of the “Cobra Gold 2013” joint military exercise, at a military base in Chon Buri province February 20, 2013.
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REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

But the rest of the snake is not wasted — the Marines have to learn how to cook and eat its body as well.

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A U.S. Marine inflates a cobra skin after removing its entrails during a jungle survival exercise as part of the “Cobra Gold 2018” (CG18) joint military exercise, at a military base in Chonburi province, Thailand, February 19, 2018.
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REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Many high ranking officers are present at the drills, including Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller.

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Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, along with other distinguished visitors, pose for a group photo after an amphibious assault drill during Exercise Cobra Gold 18, Hat Yao, Thailand, February 17, 2018.
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US Marine Corps

Cobra Gold also had a moment of environmental activism, when officers released rescued sea turtles into the ocean.

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U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commanding general, III Marine Expeditionary Force, holds a turtle at the Sea Turtle Conservation Center during the turtle releasing ceremony of Cobra Gold 18, Sattahip district, Chonburi province, Thailand, February 13, 2018.
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US Marine Corps