Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tweeted Tuesday the annual Marine rotation to Australia was approved and back on the table following a deployment delay due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Chuck Little, a spokesman for Marine Forces Pacific, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement that the government of Australia granted an exemption to travel restrictions to allow the Marine rotation to commence.
Marines arriving in Australia will undergo a 14-day quarantine prior to training. The Corps did not provide any dates when the Australia rotation would commence.
Little didn’t provide the number of Marines headed Down Under. But in March Lt. Bridget Glynn, a spokeswoman for Marine Rotational Force Darwin, previously said this year’s deployment would be roughly the same as last year — nearly 2,500 Marines.
According to Australia’s Department of Health, there are 565 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 6:30 am Thursday — that’s an increase of 111 cases over a 24-hour period.
“The Marine Corps is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its forces and the Australian people, including local indigenous communities,” Little said.
“We continue to work closely with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) on the force composition, timing and planned training,” Little explained.
The U.S. and Australia decided in March to delay the Marine deployment in March which was slated to kick off in April.
While the deployment time frame has changed, Little said "the changes to this year’s deployment do not change the plans for those in subsequent years.”
Australia is an important ally for the Corps’ plans to confront a rising China in the Indo-Pacific.
“The U.S. remains committed to our mutual defense treaty with Australia and to enhancing interoperability and capability between the Marine Corps and the ADF , which benefits each country’s security and contributes to stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Little said.