DARWIN, Australia -- While Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) is the most notable and visible defense interchange between Australia and the United States, a host of other exchange and partnered opportunities exist between the two allied forces.
Though Independence Day is a uniquely American holiday, it is always important to recognize our allies and partners who made our independence possible, and those who continue to share our aspirations for peace today. Australia is at the top of that list, and we share a defense bond worth recognizing on this 4th of July.
“Having spent two and a half years flying with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), I gained unique insight into one of our most lethal allies,” said MRF-D executive officer Lieutenant Colonel Duncan French, who served as an exchange F-18 pilot with the Australian Defence Force (ADF). “The RAAF pilots are ultimate professionals, very good at what they do, and have a wealth of knowledge from which the USMC can gain a great deal. They opened my eyes to employing tactical fighters in a novel yet effective manner. Following my tour, I returned to the Marine Corps with a heightened perspective on how to employ the best tactics of each service.”
Both the United States and Australia provide service members to their allies to not only enhance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures, but also to enhance cultural ties between the forces. The exchanged service members train, work, and live alongside their designated partnered unit, and serve in operational billets as if they were part of the same service. The Marine Corps currently provides an exchange officer to 1st Aviation Brigade in the Northern Territory, a pilot who flies alongside Australian Tiger attack helicopter pilots and provides USMC insight to ADF operations.
I had the pleasure of working alongside two Australians during my time as a tank officer. As far as proficiency and professionalism go, there was zero drop-off and I learned a tremendous amount of technical and cultural knowledge from both Soldiers.
“I am proud to say that my role as an Abrams Master Gunner Instructor has been the most rewarding experience of my military career. I was pleased to see the highest level of military professionalism and dedication to excellence at the Abrams Master Gunner School,” said School of Armour instructor Warrant Officer Ewan Jack, who instructed at the U.S. Army’s Armor School as a Master Gunner Instructor alongside both U.S. Soldiers and Marines. “My posting to the U.S. was highly rewarding and provided myself and my family a life experience that will unlikely occur ever again. I gained valuable experience, friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.”
Warrant Officer Jack is just one of a long line of Australian tankers to serve as part of U.S. armor formations. Retired Warrant Officer Class Two Finley Steel served as the tank leader for Alpha Company, 1st Tank Battalion in 2015 and 2016, helping to lead and mentor Marine armor crewmembers. Warrant Officer Steel embraced his role not only as a leader, but as an ambassador of Australia to the United States.
“Being embedded into the Marine Corps shaped me and influenced me as a warrior,” said Warrant Officer Steel, who I shared many memorable exercises and events with in the unit. “I felt like a part of an elite brotherhood and forged relationships that will last my lifetime.”
Along with direct exchange personnel, ADF and U.S. service members often work alongside one another during international training and operations.
“Working with the USN and USMC over the course of my career has been a rewarding experience at every stage," said Australian Northern Command public affairs officer Lieutenant Gordon Carr-Gregg, who served onboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln as a surface warfare officer. “We operate in such similar ways, so much of the time that the minutia of differences in our tactics, techniques, and procedures are often novel. Whether on the bridge of a warship or out in the field in a HMMWV, it’s awesome to know that while we may be marching to different beats - we are all heading in the same direction, together.”
The American-Australian military connection is over 100 years old and rich with successful integration. The two militaries fought alongside one another in nearly every major conflict for a century, including action during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and operations in the Middle East. MRF-D is honored to be a part of this historic relationship.
For questions regarding this story, please contact the Marine Rotational Force – Darwin media inquiry email address at MRFDMedia@usmc.mil. Imagery from this rotation and previous can be found at dvidshub.net/unit/MRF-D.