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NEWS | July 13, 2022

Carving a Home in the Community: MRF-D and the Northern Territory

By Capt. Joseph DiPietro Marine Rotational Force - Darwin

DARWIN, Australia -- The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) calls the Northern Territory home and has for over ten years now. MRF-D 22 is working to build on the strong foundation in the local community from past rotations.

“I’ve been on a few deployments and been to a few countries, and I can say with confidence I have never received a warmer welcome than coming to Australia,” said MRF-D commanding officer Colonel Chris Steele, who leads the 11th rotation of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). “We truly feel like a part of this town and will work to ensure that same experience applies to our follow-on rotations.”

One of MRF-D 22’s MAGTF priorities includes enhancing and building on alliances and partnerships with Australia and other Indo-Pacific nations. An important part of any alliance is the cultural relationship between countries. MRF-D has a history of community interaction and support for the local Darwin population, and this year’s rotation works to build on that strong cultural connection.

“The Marines aren’t just here to train, they are truly a part of the Darwin community,” emphasized Brigadier Nick Foxall, the commanding officer of the Northern Territory-based 1st Brigade, and close friend of MRF-D 22. “We greatly enjoy not only working with and training alongside MRF-D, but living alongside them as part of the NT family.”

MRF-D is honored by the local community with opportunities to support local events, such as the ANZAC Day parade, sporting events, and school support activities throughout the rotation. MRF-D personnel also take part in local entertainment and hospitality during the dry season such as local markets, concerts, and museum interaction.

"We are always looking for ways to support the local community and want to ensure we are reciprocating the kindness of Australia in everything we do,” said Lieutenant Commander Kevin Wilkinson, the MRF-D 22 Chaplain. “We know we are guests in this country and in Darwin and want to treat our hosts with the same courtesy they provide us during the rotation."

MRF-D’s presence in Darwin supports the local community in many ways. Darwin, a city of approximately 150,000 people, gets over a 1% population increase every year when the MAGTF comes to town. This increase supports local businesses in addition to the personal impacts Marines and Sailors have in the Northern Territory.

The relationship spans far beyond defense-based ties as well. This last week, MRF-D hosted an Independence Day cookout to celebrate the nation’s birthday, and due to the close ties with the community, significant Darwin leaders joined the event. The Northern Territory Chief Minister, the Member of Parliament for Solomon, and a large group of both Australian Defence Force members and local leaders joined in the festivities to not only celebrate independence, but also the close relationship between MRF-D and the community.

“I thoroughly enjoyed attending the MRF-D Independence Day BBQ, or as they call it, cookout. The event was the perfect opportunity to share some bevvies and have a yarn with our Marine colleagues and closest security ally,” said Australian Army Captain Jen Hogan, who is a critical support component to MRF-D 22. “Being part of such a patriotic day was a highlight of this posting, and I look forward to seeing the relationship between Australian and American forces grow stronger in the future.”

In addition to ceremonies, MRF-D 22 participated in multiple demonstrations, displays, and community showcases during the rotation. Over the last two weeks, the MRF-D 22 aviation combat element (ACE) supported multiple air shows for the Australian community utilizing the MV-22 Osprey. The ACE also played a significant role in the community engagement days built into both Exercise CROCODILE RESPONSE in May and Exercise DARRANDARRA in June, where Marines and Sailors with MRF-D along with ADF soldiers spent time with local families as part of the combined exercises.

“Being out here and sharing our aircraft is really cool. We are constantly working to keep the aircraft up and running, flying missions, and using our spare time to study,” expressed ACE crew chief Sergeant Juan Gutierrez. “Seeing the smiles that this aircraft brings to people’s faces is priceless, and it really gives purpose to what we do.”

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.
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