DARWIN, AUSTRALIA --
Marines and sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit sailed into Darwin, Australia aboard the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) Sept. 2, 2011 and within hours of arrival participated in a Bilateral Primary Military Education Engagement event with Australian soldiers from 1st Division.
Marines from throughout Battalion Landing Team 1/1 and Combat Logistics Battalion set up the same equipment they’ve used on their 2011 deployment to train with host nation partners as an expeditionary force in readiness. From M-4 Carbine’s to radios, Marines displayed the tools of their trade for Australian soldiers to see and hold.
“I think they were surprised and impressed by the way we operate in four man fire teams,” said Lance Cpl. Hector F. Deleon, a grenadier with 2nd Fire team 3rd Squad, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU “They were really asking how we operate in Afghanistan and how much a single fire team can do with squad weapons like the [squad automatic weapon] and the M203 grenade launcher, how much firepower you can lay down.”
Major Gen. Rick Burr, commander of 1st Division, toured the Green Bay, to see firsthand how a Battalion Landing Team can carry the personnel and equipment to deliver and sustain hundreds of combat ready troops to shores throughout the globe.
“It was truly an honor to show Major General Burr the amphibious capabilities of the Green Bay,” said Lt. Col. Craig R. Wonson, commanding officer of BLT 1/1, 13th MEU. “Burr’s reputation precedes him and he is someone that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He asked some great questions on amphibious operations and some of the challenges we faced while on deployment.”
While Burr toured the ship, other soldiers from the Australian Army got first hand insight into the LPD’s capabilities. They climbed inside Amphibious Assault Vehicles, toured the Landing Force Operations Center and walked through the galley that hundreds of Marines and sailors eat in.
“It’s a very good experience,” said Capt. Michael Nawshim, battalion plans captain for 1st Mechanized Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Army. “One thing that’s benefited me from this tour of the Green Bay is here we have a more advanced ship than anything we currently have, but are very similar to the capabilities we have coming online in the next coming years. It was also good to see how Marines can carry this many AAV’s with them on one ship. I’ve worked with AAV’s before in previous Talisman Saber Exercises and they’re extremely versatile platform and I think they are an enduring platform too by their virtue of their age and their unique capabilities, they’ve been around so long and they’re still relevant. This is a capability that the Australian Army is moving back towards and it’s interesting to see some of the challenges that you had, will be an indication of challenges we’ve had as a land based Army but also moving toward a Marine expeditionary role.”
At the end of the day, the soldiers left the ship with a better understanding of how the 13th MEU operates on the ocean and from there to land.
“The biggest benefit was simply getting to spend time with our Australian counterparts,” said Wonson. “First Marine Division has enjoyed a long standing history with the Australians dating back to World War II, and there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie that exists between us. We always learn a lot from them, and embrace any opportunity to train and work together with them.
After the Marines finished demonstrating their capabilities for the TSC event, they had a few days to see the sights of Darwin and get a better understanding of Australia and its citizens.
The 13th MEU is deployed with Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, also providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.