The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the United States (US) Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) completed training on Friday 25 August 2017, as part of exercise CROCODILE STRIKE, at the remote South Goulburn Island, in the Arafura Sea off the coast of the Northern Territory.
Under the US Force Posture Initiatives, this training developed combined humanitarian assistance, disaster relief capability, and enhanced interoperability between Australia and the US.
Exercise CROCODILE STRIKE utilised a range of operational capabilities including the Royal Australian Air Force’s C-130 Hercules, and equipment from the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade and NORFORCE. HMAS Shepparton and Benalla of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) provided hydrographic surveys and MRF-D utilised MV22 Osprey and USMC C-130 aircraft to transport engineering and logistics support to and from Goulburn Island.
Captain Bryan Parker RAN, Deputy Commander of Northern Command, noted the exercise enabled significant increases in interoperability and readiness for combined Australia and US humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
“Australia and the US have planned for combined disaster relief operations on several occasions in recent years. The US Force Posture Initiatives provide the opportunity to deliberately exercise these scenarios and, in this case, to also help a remote community,” said CAPT Parker.
While the main purpose of this phase of Exercise Crocodile Strike was to develop Australian and US crisis response tactics and techniques, it also provided an opportunity for the ADF and US Marines to give back to the community. The Warruwi Indigenous Community, located in South Goulburn Island, approx 300km east of Darwin, provided access for the exercise to be carried out. In return, the ADF and US Marines cleared and restored some facilities and infrastructure, and provided some medical support.
“We are very appreciative of the Warruwi Indigenous Community for welcoming us onto their land to undertake the exercise. Exercising in remote islands, with limited infrastructure and language barriers simulates well the types of disaster scenarios we could face in the region,” said CAPT Parker.
Annual rotations of US Marines through Darwin under the US Force Posture Initiatives commenced in 2012. The Initiatives aim to improve stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region, increase Australian and US military interoperability and improve preparedness to respond to crises. The Initiatives provide many opportunities for the US Marines and the ADF to conduct training and exercises bilaterally and with other regional nations.
”Each year the US Force Posture Initiatives grow in scale and sophistication, involving greater capability, equipment and exercises. Importantly we are reaching a degree of maturity in our bilateral training that enables us to increase our engagement with other Indo-Pacific nations, which is a priority over upcoming years,” said CAPT Parker.
While the US Marines may be just temporary guests, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Middleton, Commander of 2017 Marine Rotational Force-Darwin says the positive engagement with the community makes Darwin feel like home for many of Marines.
“Marines compete to deploy to Australia, not only for the world-class training, but also the camaraderie of our ADF counterparts and local community members. I know the Commander of the 2018 rotation is looking forward to getting down here!” said Lieutenant Colonel Middleton.
The 2017 Marine rotation will conclude in October, but planning is already underway for next year’s rotation, scheduled to commence around March/April 2018.
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