DARWIN, NT, Australia -- Approximately 1,500 Marines have arrived and are scheduled to participate in the next iteration of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) 2018 at Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, April 23.
MRF-D is a six month rotation that started as an agreement between former President Barack Obama and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to conduct exercises and train with the Australian Defence Force. This year’s rotation will be the first to perform as a special Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
“We’re here to work in a bilateral fashion,” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. James Schnelle, commanding officer of MRF-D. “As we come on deck we’ll be looking to operationalize Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.”
The rotational deployment of U.S. Marines affords a combined training opportunity with Australian allies and improves interoperability between the two forces. This provides the Marines, ADF and other partners the opportunity to develop relationships, learn about each other’s cultures and share military capabilities.
“For the [Marines] to be able to see a young crocodile and hear the stories about the 4.7 to 5.3 Meter ones out in the bay here helps their understanding and respect you’ve got to have for those types of animals,” said Schnelle. “We’ll continue to drive that home as we start to get out into the outback.”
The service members are expected to participate in approximately 15 exercises during the rotation. Some of the exercises will include MV-22 Ospreys, F/A-18D Hornets, AH-1Z Viper helicopters, UH-1Y Venom helicopters, KC-130J Hercules aircraft and M777 Howitzers.
“The Australian and American relationship is the strongest defence relationship that we have,” said Deputy Commander Northern Command CAPT Bryan Parker, Royal Australian Navy. “It’s extremely important for us to work together to understand each other’s techniques, tactics and procedures so we can better perform.”
As the Marines settle in, they say that they are excited to be in Australia and that the community has welcomed them with open arms.
“The warm welcome of both the ADF and local population has been phenomenal,” said Schnelle. “It’s been an exciting time to get about and meet several members of the community.”