CAMP ROCKY, ROCKHAMPTON, Australia --
Thousands of Australian citizens poured into Rockhampton Fairgrounds July 9 during the opening day for Talisman Sabre 2011.
The event consisted of static displays along with demonstrations of weapons and equipment used by Marines and Sailors of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines and Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, as well other displays by the Australian Defence Forces.
The Marines displayed 81mm and 60mm mortar systems, an M19 automatic grenade launcher, and a Browning M2 50. caliber machine gun.
Citizens spent hours interacting with Marines and Sailors, asking about their equipment, the jobs they do, and experiences they have had on deployments.
“Today were showing the Australian civilians the weapon systems that we use showcasing the partnership that we have with the Australian military,” said Sgt. Todd J. Martin, an assistant section leader and machine gunner with Weapons Co. BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “We are explaining everything about out weapon systems, and showing the good face of the Marine Corps for everyone here that has never met Marines before.”
The Marines took the time to answer every question asked, allowed people to try on their flak jackets and helmets, painted children’s faces with camouflage paint, and posed for hundreds of photos for the families.
In addition to interacting with civilians, the Marines also spent time talking with the Australian forces at the ceremony.
“I’m having fun talking with the Marines,” said Cpl. Ashley J. Faulks, a military policeman with the Australian Army. “I haven’t actually met any Marine MP’s before, so it’s good to see them and talk to them about what they do and how they do it. It’s always nice to see it from another point of view.”
As the day passed and the Marines got to know the Australian civilians and service members, they began to warm up with conversation and laughter.
“The Australians are all very welcoming people,” said Cpl. Samuel G. Potenti, a squad leader and mortarman with Weapons Co. “Everyone comes up and asks about the mortar systems and they are really respectful.”
It was evident at the end of the event that the U.S. Marines and Australian Defence Forces left with a feeling of mutual respect and looking forward to the coming exercise. Judging by the response of the local people, the U.S. Marine and Australian forces displays were a huge success.
“It gives me a lot of pride to be able to talk to the Australian civilians and tell them what we do and how we do it,” said Martin. “It is rewarding to know we are representing the entire Marine Corps, and if I could do this in every country we go to I would do it in a heartbeat.”
This exercise is a major undertaking which reflects the closeness of the Australian and U.S. alliance and the strength of the military-military relationship.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nations force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.