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Marines' role in Australia to expand next year, general says

Jun. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Marine Corps' presence in Australia will increase fivefold next year as military officials there look to the U.S. for guidance in developing their amphibious capabilities, a Marine general with oversight of operations in the Pacific said Tuesday. (Sgt. Pete Thibodeau / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps’ presence in Australia will increase fivefold next year as military officials there look to the U.S. for guidance in developing their amphibious capabilities, a Marine general with oversight of operations in the Pacific said June 11.

Australia’s government has paved the way for a force of 1,100 Marines to rotate next summer through Darwin in the country’s Northern Territory, Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock, the deputy commander of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, said during a media engagement at the Pentagon. At the same time, the Australian navy is acquiring its first two amphibious assault ships, which will enhance its ability to respond to crises throughout the region. As the Aussies prepare to operate them, they’re looking to Marines for mentoring.

“What they see [are] the capabilities that they want,” Simcock said. “They don’t have a marine corps; they have an army. And they want to know how to put ground forces on amphibious ships and drive them around the Pacific like we do.”

The move will further enhance the two countries’ partnership, which was reinvigorated last year when the first rotation of 250 Hawaii-based Marines deployed to Darwin for six months. A second rotation of about 200 infantrymen began its six-month tour there in April.

Australian officials plan to announce next year’s larger rotation in the coming weeks, according to recent media reports.

“I think it was last week the Australians voted to go into phase two of the operation” in 2014, Simcock said. “Phase one was a company-level [unit] — 200 to 250 Marines down there. Phase two will be increasing it to a battalion landing team-sized unit. ... Also, there will be some aviation assets flowing in to support that.”

The goal, he added, is to rotate a 2,500-person Marine air-ground task force through Australia. That’s expected to happen by 2016.

MAGTFs, as they’re called, are self-sustaining units comprising ground combat troops plus aviation and logistical support. Although they can range in size, the most common are Marine expeditionary units, which include more than 2,000 personnel and deploy throughout the world aboard Navy amphibious assault ships.

As for Australia’s amphibious partnership with the U.S., Simcock said the Australian military has approached the Marine Corps to learn how to move troops and equipment and improve sea-based capabilities. The Aussies want to learn how to travel around the region, getting on and off the ship to train and conduct operations before heading out again to a new locale for another mission, all the while maintaining communication and logistical support, he said.■

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