Lance Cpl. Trevor Smitherman, TOW gunner with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, crawls under a cement block at an obstacle course on June 2 during a week-long squad competition aboard Robertson Barracks. (Cpl. Scott Reel / Marine Corps)
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, speaks during an Aug. 11 press conference with Australia's Defence Minister David Johnston in Sydney, Australia. (Rob Griffith / Getty Images)
The United States and Australia are expected to sign an agreement on Tuesday that will pave the way for 2,500 U.S Marines to rotate through the continent.
At a press conference on Monday in Sydney, Australian Minister of Defense David Johnston explained some aspects of the 25-year-long deal, saying it will allow around 2,500 U.S. Marines to train in the Northern Territory alongside Australian forces. His country will provide the Marines with hospitality and access to training ranges, including space for live fire exercises.
In return, Australia’s military will learn how to become more proficient at amphibious operations and disaster relief missions from U.S. Marines, Johnston said. He was joined at the press conference by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The deal was expected and comes after the U.S. announced in 2012 that it will put a greater emphasis on Asia-Pacific operations and that it will rely heavily on international partners, including long-term and stable allies like Australia. Johnston, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry are expected to sign the international agreement.
So far around 1,200 Marines move through Australia on a rotational basis, but the U.S. wants 2,500 Marines to rotate through Darwin, Australia, by 2016. The first aviation combat element, a contingent of 100 Marines and four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters, arrived in March.
Things have gone well with U.S. Marines in town, Johnston said.
“You might be surprised to know we’ve had 1,200 (U.S. Marines) there for some long time now in the dry six months of the year in the Northern Territory. And you would be surprised, because it’s gone seamlessly. Everybody’s happy. Everything has worked according to plan. There’s been no issues. And we are absolutely delighted with the presence of those personnel there,” Johnston said.