Several hundred additional U.S. Marines have been deployed to Australia, bumping the Corps’ footprint Down Under to 2,500, Australia’s Defence Department announced Wednesday evening.
It’s a major milestone as the Corps reaches its goal of a 2,500 Marine rotation to Australia, which was agreed to during the 2018 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations.
Lt. Colin B. Kennard, a Marine spokesman, said the additional forces include grunts from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines based out of Hawaii; some Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 1 based at Camp Pendleton, California; and a shock trauma platoon from 3rd Medical Battalion in Okinawa, Japan.
The Corps announced in April that roughly 1,700 Marines were headed to Australia with its most robust aviation element to date. Over the past several years the Corps has steadily increased its footprint in Australia — about 1,500 Marines deployed in 2018.
“This milestone demonstrates the enduring nature of the Australia-US alliance and our deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region,” Australia’s Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said in a press release.
“The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin improves interoperability between Australian and US defence forces, and enhances our ability to work together with regional partners in the interests of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific," Reynolds said in the release.
Kennard said that future Marine rotations to Australia would be “based on requirements set jointly by U.S. Marine and Australian Defence Force planners with an emphasis on capabilities rather than a target number of personnel."
Australia is a vital ally for the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific as the region confronts a rising China. Marines rotating through Australia participate in multilateral and bilateral military exercises with other Pacific partners.
Australia is also important to the Corps’ plan to redistribute its forces across the Pacific and draw down forces in Okinawa, Japan.
However, Congress may review the Corps’ Pacific posture in the coming year, according to the Senate’s version of the defense bill.
The recent U.S. Senate version of the annual defense legislation also includes roughly $211 million for construction in Darwin, Australia. It’s still unknown what the U.S. military plans to use the construction funds for.
The current Marine rotation features an aviation element with four AH-1Z Vipers, three UH-1Y Venoms, and 10 MV-22 Ospreys, Kennard, previously told Marine Corps Times.
Marines are currently conducting a nearly month long large scale exercise in Australia known as Talisman Sabre.
The Marine rotation is expected to remain in Australia until October, Marine officials said.
This year’s iteration of Talisman Sabre featured a HIMARs rocket artillery raid and amphibious landing.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.