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31st MEU Marines clean before going down under

28 May 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Since the beginning of May, Australian federal quarantine workers have been conducting agricultural inspections of vehicles, equipment and machinery that III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines and sailors will be taking to Australia for Talisman Saber 2009.

The team of 12 Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) workers is spread throughout Okinawa, thoroughly inspecting gear for the smallest particles of earth that could potentially impact the environment of "the land down under."

According to their web site, AQIS is the first line of defense for the country's agriculture. The service protects against diseases and exotic pests entering the country that could affect its $32 billion agricultural industry.

“Our role is to inspect imported machinery and equipment and ensure it conforms to federal conditions and requirements,” said Geoff Popple, the AQIS machinery coordinator. “Our ecosystem can be considered a fragile one, and if not maintained the consequences to the environment and the welfare of Australia could be severe.”

The native Australian said contaminants which make it into the country could be very costly for the agricultural industry and the economy.

"The cost to get rid of the contaminant could become very severe and it could also prove to be a threat to the agricultural and production industries,” Popple said.

1st Lt. Brian G. Colby, the logistics officer for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, said that although there are multiple inspections, completing the process is essential for making a smooth transition into Australia.

“We are required to do it now because once we get on ship we will no longer have the resources to complete it,” Colby said. “Not only is it important from the inspectors point of view, but it helps us so there is less to worry about once we get to Australia.”

Marines and sailors from 3/5 are working around the clock to make sure the process will be completed by the scheduled date.

The process begins with the Marines and sailors disassembling vehicles and equipment. Once completely apart, every piece, no matter how big or small, must be washed and sprayed down before being inspected.

“We have four shifts which ensures we will complete the job and ensures the Marines and sailors are also given enough rest,” Colby said.

The inspection is scheduled for completion June 5. The field portion of this year's Talisman Saber is scheduled for July.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit