FRESHWATER BEACH, QUEENSLAND, Australia --
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit began moving vehicles, equipment and personnel to USS Germantown (LSD 42), after successfully completing exercise Talisman Sabre 2011.
During the exercise, Marines of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st MEU, participated in a combined-arms, joint live-fire exercise lasting four days that improved interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces.
Company G, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU, conducted a mock amphibious assault on the beach, which was quickly followed by the mechanized seizure of Sam Hill airfield. Later, the battalion transitioned into sustained support and stability operations with logistic resupply by Combat Logistics Battalion 31 in the scenario-based exercise.
Throughout the exercise, the Marines of the 31st MEU upheld the reputation of the Marine Corps as an elite force.
“We moved so fast and eliminated the enemy so quickly, that the people in charge of the exercise said the war would have been won by the fifth day we were operating,” said Capt. Machaiah McCollum, the commanding officer of Company G, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “We traveled more than 200 kilometers in 10 days, and sustained our logistics support throughout the movement, which is a pretty big accomplishment.”
Marines also had the opportunity to train in a realistic environment as they conducted movements to contact, deliberate defense, support and stability operations, and concluded the training with a large-scale bilateral combined arms live-fire exercise.
“This training definitely helps prepare every one of us for a combat deployment,” said Lance Cpl. Marc D. Pepretis, a team leader with Company G, BLT 2/7, 31st MEU. “The support and stability operations were very realistic, and it is definitely something that we will have to do if we go to Afghanistan.”
Marines of CLB 31 also participated and got the chance to build upon their skills as Marines.
“While we were here we practiced radio operations,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Marchand, a motor transportation mechanic with CLB 31, 31st MEU. “We manned observation points and reported any movement to the command. It was really cool because as a mechanic I don’t really get a chance to do things like that, and it is definitely something I might do in Afghanistan.”
The overall feeling the Marines had upon completion of the exercise was one of success.
“We did exceptionally well over here,” said McCollum. “The Australian service members were very impressed by the way we operated and how quickly we completed our objectives.”
In addition to improving skills, the Marines improved relations between the U.S. and Australian forces as they worked side-by-side.
“The work we did with the Australians was awesome,” said Pepretis. “We learned a lot from them and they learned a lot from us. Everything about us was so similar and their wasn’t a language barrier we had to overcome that it made it really easy to make friends.”
As the exercise ended and the Marines began loading U.S. Navy landing craft air cushioned with vehicles and equipment, most said they enjoyed their time in Australia and hoped to come back soon.
“I would definitely come back here again,” said Marchand. “The weather is great, the people are nice, and there hasn’t been a thing that’s come along I didn’t like yet.”
TS11 is the largest joint military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force. Around 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel have participated. TS11 provided an opportunity to conduct operations in a combined and joint environment that increased 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.