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Marines pave way for larger force in Australia

Oct. 16, 2012 - 09:13AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 16, 2012 - 09:13AM  |  
Marines and U.S. Navy corpsmen with Fox Company treat a simulated casualty during Exercise Southern Frontier 2012 in Delamere Training Area, Australia in July. A new pair of reports from the Australian government concluded the Americans' presence in the local economy has brought in $1.8 million, a figure expected to grow with a second rotation in 2013.
Marines and U.S. Navy corpsmen with Fox Company treat a simulated casualty during Exercise Southern Frontier 2012 in Delamere Training Area, Australia in July. A new pair of reports from the Australian government concluded the Americans' presence in the local economy has brought in $1.8 million, a figure expected to grow with a second rotation in 2013. (Lance Cpl. Ian McMahon / Marine Corps)
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This year's first rotational deployment of a Marine Corps infantry company to Australia proved successful, from the low-key nature of the Marines' conduct Down Under to the improved ties with their Australian army hosts.

And despite some grumblings from peace activists and others opposed to the new arrangement, the Americans' presence infused the local economy around Darwin, in the tropical northwest corner of the continent, with $1.8 million, a figure expected to grow with the second rotation next year.

Those are among the conclusions of a pair of reports the Australian government released Oct. 4 on the social and economic impacts of the deployment of about 200 Marines with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, who returned home to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay on Sept. 25.

U.S. officials have announced plans to send the second rifle company, a force of about 200 to 250 Marines, for six months next spring, after the rainy season.

"As a next step, an assessment will now be undertaken of the impacts of rotational deployments of up to 1,100 U.S. Marines to northern Australia," said Australia Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Warren E. Snowdon, minister for defence science and personnel, in a joint statement Oct. 4. "This next assessment will help inform government consideration about the size, nature and timing of the next increment in possible future rotations."

Officials expect to see the number grow to 2,500 by 2016, at the earliest. The task force will include supporting aviation and logistics units.

Fox Company arrived in April at Robertson Barracks, the headquarters of the Australian army's 1st Brigade. Smith and Snowdon praised the Marines for their "professionalism and good conduct."

Some of the local population's fears — including more problems with alcohol abuse, sexual assaults and vehicle crashes because of the Marines — didn't materialize.

Fox Company didn't spend the entire deployment in Darwin. With Australia as their jump-off point, Marines participated in exercises with forces from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia through the spring and summer. Military commanders have said the new unit rotations will enable Marines to operate in different environments and train with other forces throughout Asia-Pacific.

That includes a new "table top" exercise, focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, that the Corps will conduct with Australia and Indonesia. It will lead to a "full scale" trilateral exercise next year, they announced.

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