An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | Sept. 29, 2023

Strength of the Combined Force: Australian, Filipino, U.S. Forces Coming Together to Demonstrate Readiness for Crisis and Contingency Response

By Maj. Matthew Wolf, Marine Rotational Force - Darwin

Marines and Sailors of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) joined members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Australian Defence Force (ADF) for Exercise Alon, part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2023. Alon, a Filipino word which translates to waves in English, refers amphibious nature of the exercise which included ship-to-shore movements conducted by the combined force.

“Exercise Alon has been two years in the making – what started off as just a concept is now coming to fruition,” said the Commander of the Amphibious Task Force, Royal Australian Navy CAPT Phillipa Hay. “It's a great pleasure to be operating with the Filipinos and particularly to be able to exercise and bring together an integrated force in Filipino waters.”

The combined force sailed from Darwin, Australia to the Philippines on HMAS Canberra, while integrating tactics, techniques, and procedures in preparation for a series of amphibious assaults. MRF-D complemented the capabilities of the ADF and AFP by embarking four MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and a contingent of ground combat forces on the ship in support of the ship-to-shore movements of personnel and equipment from the three nations.

“It’s quite significant, having the MV-22s on board, as it is the second time they have been on board, the first time being as part of RIMPAC last year,” said the commanding officer of HMAS Canberra, CAPT Brendan O’Hara. “It shows the real interoperability between the U.S. and the Australian Navy, but also demonstrates the flexibility of our amphibious capabilities in order to support other nation’s aircraft, and as we are seeing in Exercise Alon, other nation’s personnel as well.”

What began as a series of deck landing qualifications more than two years ago, has now evolved into the full embarkation of four aircraft and necessary maintenance personnel on HMAS Canberra.

“We came to Exercise Alon with a more robust footprint, applying lessons learned on what it takes to sustain a detachment of Ospreys aboard HMAS Canberra and ensuring all necessary logistics requirements were met,” said Lt. Col. Joe Whitefield, commanding officer of VMM-363 (REIN), MRF-D. “Having our aircraft on board increases flexibility in ship-to-objective maneuver and adds to the capability of the combined force.”

With the exercise beginning in Darwin only a week prior to embarkation on HMAS Canberra, the combined force worked quickly to integrate tactics, enabling seamless coordination throughout the exercise. The Marines (U.S. and Filipino) and Soldiers conducted urban combat, communications, and medical training events and daily wet and dry embarkation rehearsals, referred to as WADERs, to increase speed and efficiency of boarding air and surface connectors such as the MV-22B Osprey and the LHD Landing Craft used for maneuvering to objectives.

COL Douglas Pashley, Commander of the Landing Force, spoke to the significance and complexity of integrating the combined force to accomplish the objective, "The job of an amphibious force can range from base-level engagement and partnering with friends and Allies to humanitarian assistance, to disaster relief in response to a natural disaster, to something more serious, such as a security and stability operation or evacuation, up to high-end warfighting."


The contingent of ground-combat Marines and Soldiers used inflatable walls to practice close quarters combat on the ship’s heavy vehicle deck, moving through a series of obstacles with airsoft weapons that added realism to the simulated urban combat.


“We've got to prepare and train for a lot of different things, and we have a lot of people coming from different backgrounds, so it's a real challenge to bring that team together in short order to make sure they can operate effectively,” said Pashley.

Training complete, the landing force set their focus on the initial assault on Palawan. Waves of the combined force assembled in the ship’s light vehicle deck and conducted final gear inspections before making their way to the flight deck for the over-the-horizon aerial assault on MV-22B Ospreys.

Inspired by the moment, Sgt. Marcos Romeroflores, a squad leader with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (REIN), MRF-D, recounted his feelings while standing on the flight deck,

“It's not every day that you realize the importance of your profession; boarding an Osprey on an Australian ship to conduct an amphibious assault with Australians and Filipinos is awe inspiring.”

Once ashore, the combined force established security around an airfield and set conditions for a subsequent movement through the town of Rizal to a fortified position occupied by a contingent of Marines from the Philippine Marine Corps who were simulating the enemy force.

“It was a pleasure to serve with our counterparts in the ADF and Philippine Marine Corps,” said Romeroflores. “While similar in many ways, they [AFP, ADF] have their own unique way of tackling problems which I have added to my toolbox as a tactical leader. Both militaries are extremely professional in they way they conduct business, and I could not be prouder to serve alongside them."

After seizing the fortified position, the combined force participated in a “Boodle Fight” hosted by the Philippine Marine Corps contingent; an AFP tradition in which warfighters gather around a banquet table to feast in celebration of recent victories.

CPL Mary Joy Hayahay PN(M) said “Boodle Fight is a form of camaraderie – every time we celebrate something we gather to build on our strong relationship.”

Reconstituting on HMAS Canberra, the force began preparations for the second assault while sailing North to the Zambales area. The second assault saw an increase in size and scope, with the addition of three LHD Landing Craft delivering forces and equipment ashore, including an Australian M1A1 Abrams main battle tank. In addition to delivering forces ashore from HMAS Canberra via MV-22B Osprey and LLC, the Philippine Navy delivered their Marines using the Tarlac-class landing platform dock BRP Davao Del Sur and two Assault Amphibian Vehicles. The assault was supported by a free-fall landing, led by the Philippine Marine Corps, and two RAAF F-35A Lightning II aircraft that provided close air support.

“The highlight for me is the opportunity to deepen relationships strengthen partnerships with our really important friends and Allies in the region,” said Pashley. “We can do really unique and meaningful international engagement activities because about 70 percent of the stuff we do for a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief mission, which is realistic, contemporary, and meaningful in the wake of a natural disaster, can also be applied to more challenging situations like security and stability operations.”

As a subset to the exercise, MRF-D sent a headquarters element to the Philippine province of Cebu, to establish communications and conduct scenario-based training evolutions that challenged the staff in applying command and control for a combined force operating across vast distances.

“The mobility of the MRF-D team is vital to providing our Allies and partners with the support necessary to respond to crisis and contingency in the region as a combined force,” said the MRF-D operations officer, Lt. Col. Philip Flambert. “Our participation in exercises such as Alon, builds repetition in our ability to exercise mobility. We are continuing to learn new ways to integrate with our friends in the region and are gaining efficiencies in doing so.”


Like Us
Follow Us



Republic of Korea and United Nations Command Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting Joint Statement
Nov. 15, 2023 - The Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of National Defense Shin Wonsik hosted the "Republic of Korea - United Nations Command Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting" in Seoul on November 14, 2023...

New Uncrewed Undersea Capabilities Strengthen AUKUS Partnership
Nov. 15, 2023 - The UK, US and Australia have strengthened their maritime forces, introducing new uncrewed undersea vessels to extend the range and lethality of their warfare capabilities...

55th Security Consultative Meeting Joint Communique
Nov. 15, 2023 - The 55th United States (U.S.)-Republic of Korea (ROK) Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) was held in Seoul, ROK, on November 13, 2023...

Pacific Partnership Returns to Tonga for the First Time in Ten Years
NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Nov. 13, 2023) – Pacific Partnership 2023 leadership, Pacific Partnership 2023 staff and Kingdom of Tonga government representatives pose for a group photo after opening ceremony held at International Dateline Hotel in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, Nov. 13. Now in its 18th year, Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Deirdre Marsac)
Nov. 14, 2023 - Pacific Partnership has arrived in Tonga to conduct the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific, Nov. 13...

Pacific Partnership 24-1 concludes first mission stop in the Republic of the Marshall Islands
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Buzzatti, director of the Reserve Medical Service Corps., is piped aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during the Pacific Partnership 2024-1 closing ceremony for the Republic of the Marshall Islands mission stop Nov. 10, 2023. Pacific Partnership, now in its 19th iteration, is the largest multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific and works to enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities, increase security stability in the region, and foster new and enduring friendships. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Justin Ontiveros)
Nov. 14, 2023 - Multinational service members participating in Pacific Partnership 2024-1 (PP24-1) departed the Republic of the Marshall Islands aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) Nov. 14 following a 14-day mission stop in the...