DARWIN, AUSTRALIA. -- Major General Benjamin Watson, Commanding General of the First Marine Division, visited the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) following a trip to Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on August 10.
“5th Marines and 3/7 are at the pointy end of the spear for us,” said General Watson, who recently took command of the Marine Corps’ largest division. “Not only geographically, but also with experimentation, and they are leading the way for both the division and the Marine Corps.”
While under different circumstances, General Watson’s trip parallels the journey of the First Marine Division’s primary commander during World War II, Alexander Vandegrift. General Vandegrift took command of the division in the spring of 1942, and immediately led the historic unit to the South Pacific. The Blue Diamond epitomized Marine Corps warfighting in the South Pacific, leading U.S. forces to victories on previously unknown islands throughout the region.
General Watson’s trip to the Indo-Pacific included attendance at the 80th anniversary ceremony at Guadalcanal, where decades ago the First Marine Division proved to be the world’s premier warfighting organization behind the leadership of heroes such as Chesty Puller, John Basilone, and Merritt Edson. The ceremony also included new U.S. Ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, whose father, President John F. Kennedy, served in the waters of the Indo-Pacific just months after the Marine Corps began the ferocious campaign.
“We’re here today not only to express our gratitude to those who sacrificed during the war,” said Ambassador Kennedy at the ceremony, reflecting on her family’s history in the seas around Guadalcanal. “But also to those who established peace and worked for the years and decades that followed to bring our nations closer.”
After the ceremony, General Watson travelled to Adelaide, South Australia, home to some units of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) 1st Brigade. Following time in Adelaide, Blue Diamond Six joined many of his Marines and Sailors in Darwin who serve as a part of the 11th iteration of the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. MRF-D’s primary partner is the 1st Brigade, and the two teamed up for multiple exercises and events throughout the deployment.
“I wouldn’t want to serve in any other brigade because of our opportunity to work alongside the Marines,” said ADF Major Anthony Purdy, the operations officer for the Australian 1st Brigade, while briefing General Watson on an upcoming combined exercise. “Combined arms fighting is tough work, but incredibly rewarding, and training with MRF-D allows us to increase our capabilities.”
General Watson’s visit to MRF-D marks the second First Marine Division commander to join the Marine Air Ground Task Force in Darwin this year. Major General Roger Turner, the previous commanding general, visited earlier in the rotation. The presence of the Blue Diamond remains critical to the U.S. Australian Alliance, as the unit maintains a strong connection with Australia through its crest, song, and presence as part of the MRF-D.
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.