SAM HILL, QUEENSLAND, Australia --
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are conducting stability and support operations during a simulated, scenario-based operation that takes place during exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.
As part of the ongoing scenario, the United Nations has authorized the 31st MEU to assist in restoring the democratic government of a fictional country.
Marines and Sailors of Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines and Combat Logistics Battalion 31, elements of the 31st MEU, are tasked with supporting the reestablishment and support of this fictional government.
The Marines and Sailors landed two days ago, quickly established a beachhead, pushed inland, and quickly seized the Sam Hill Airfield, which is now their base of operations.
Their mission is now to stabilize the region and enforce the United Nations mandate in the scenario.
“Since we seized the airfield we have been establishing security, engaging the local populace and determining what their needs are,” said Capt. Michaiah McCollum, G Company commander, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “We are also trying to find out what the enemy situation is and how we can support the locals in stopping the attacks on them by the enemy.”
McCollum went on to say that by protecting the civilians and making them feel safe, they will make it easier to get information on enemy operations from the local populace.
Since the operation began, the Marines have gotten a chance to practice their skills in some unique situations.
At one point, Marines received intelligence about a possible mass gravesite.
Upon confirming the intelligence, U.S. and Australian investigative agencies were brought in to examine the scene.
The operation also allows the Marines a chance to operate independently, at a lower level of command and control.
“We have two squads working independently now,” said McCollum. “One squad guarding the grave site 24 hours-a-day, and the other is manning a combat outpost just like they would in Afghanistan.”
Due to the complexity of the scenario, the Marines are encountering many things that will help them prepare for any possible combat deployment.
“In Afghanistan we would be operating at the squad and platoon level,” said McCullom. “The Marines will need to be free-thinking and able to make good decisions on their own. We would still control and support the Marines, but small unit leadership with the squad leader, that’s where the focus is. This is how we do it in training so when we get to combat they will be more successful.”
Through the training scenario, the Marines are learning new things.
“I’m a squad leader right now and acting platoon sergeant,” said Cpl. Eric Durosky the platoon sergeant of 2nd platoon, Company G., BLT 2/7, 31st MEU.”It’s a little hard to coordinate everyone here instead of just my one squad, so it’s good training for me. This kind of stuff directly affects any possible deployment to Afghanistan; SASO operations are really the cornerstone of what we are doing in Afghanistan right now. When we start going into town and asking if there are any Taliban present or any IED’s, having this type of training could save Marines lives. Everything we are doing here is important.”
Through all of the challenges the Marines are encountering, they are still having fun doing what they were trained to do.
“The best part about this was coming ashore, moving through the major supply route, clearing all the enemy out and establishing this operating base,” said McCullom. “That’s what Marines are trained to do and that’s what they enjoy doing, getting in the fight and getting dirty. That’s what they signed up to do.”
TS11 is the largest joint military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force. Around 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel will participate. TS11 provides an opportunity to conduct operations in a combined and joint environment that will increase both countries’ bilateral war-fighting capabilities to respond to crisis and to provide humanitarian assistance.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.