SHOALWATER BAY, Queensland, Australia --
In preparation for Exercise Hamel 2012, a multi-national training scenario, U.S. and Australian participants are preparing for war. But unlike typical scenarios, the allied forces will be facing each other.
Marines of Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, prepare forces and defenses for a multi-week engagement with the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade (Reinforced).
After a week of briefs and planning, the U.S. Marines and Australian forces that make up the enemy force moved out to fortify defences or locate, close with and destroy the enemy, June 25.
“It’s the anticipation that can be the worst, especially when going up against the Marines,” said Australian Pvt. Philip Finau, rifleman with the 6th Royal Australian Regiment, 7th Brigade, attached to 1st Brigade for the exercise. “I’ve operated with the Marines in Afghanistan and saw how similar our tactics are, but it’s those small differences we have to be able to adapt to.”
Spanning a period of three weeks, both forces will clash in a series of engagements where 1st Brigade will be tasked with pushing back and wiping out the enemy presence. The Marines, with Australian and New Zealand elements assisting, will defend the areas to the best of their ability while conducting various guerrilla-style attacks to disrupt 1st Brigade advances.
The week of planning prior to the start of this exercise has been invaluable for the Marines as a smooth integration between them and their foreign counterparts will be vital to providing a challenging enemy.
“We’ve done a lot of coordinated training with the various Australian units in the past week,” said Cpl. Brock Sisney, squad leader with 1st platoon, Co. G., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU. “Every last one of the Marines are being exposed to variations in Australian combat techniques, so we smoothly attach to them.”
Operating from opposite sides of the 4,500 square kilometer training area, each force will conduct daily patrols through their immediate areas of operation. A group of “umpires” will oversee the various engagements and count off the KIAs and WIAs by multiple integrated laser engagement systems, or MILES gear, the troops will be wearing.
Both forces will have the benefit of armoured vehicles and a wide array of ground forces, including snipers and mortars.
“Being the brigade-sized element during this exercise, 1st Brigade will be outfitted with a tank and LAV battle group with an additional group of reconnaissance helicopters, supplemented by our ground forces,” said Australian Capt. Mark Wilson, executive officer of the 23rd Support Squadron, 1st Combat Engineer Regiment, 1st Brigade. “With the Marines in the smaller, regiment-size force, it will be interesting to see how they will combat the larger enemy.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.