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    Environmental Monitoring for Shoalwater Bay

    Environmental monitoring for Shoalwater Bay

    Photo By Sheila deVera | Australian Army Capt. Kael Da Costa, Environmental Monitoring Group Team 2 leader, and...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Sheila deVera 

    Exercise Talisman Saber Combined Joint Information Bureau

    SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - Conducting a bilateral exercise on the northeastern coast of Australia, a location containing vast, significant ecosystems including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, means balancing the training needs of the military with the need to protect the environment. The Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) helps maintain this balance for the U.S. and Australian militaries.

    During Talisman Saber 2013, the Australian Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) Biosecurity, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Marines and the EMG work side-by-side to ensure both the Australian Defence Force and the U.S. Department of Defense comply with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999 (EPBC Act).

    The EPBC Act is the overriding legislation governing Defence activities to ensure protection of the environment and heritage.
    “Because Talisman Saber is a joint exercise, we have to abide by the rules and regulations set by Australia,” said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer MacClellan Nicholas, Marine liaison for DAFF Biosecurity.

    Every person and every piece of equipment that enters Australia is subject to inspection, preventing any contaminants, biohazards or foreign plant and animal species from damaging the environment.
    “Military vehicles, aircraft and cargo are all inspected by my teams of Marines and Sailors assigned to USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Denver (LPD 9), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Royal Australian Air Force Base Townsville RAAF Base Amberley, and Camp Rocky,” added Nicholas.

    To ensure the environmental protection teams don’t overlook anything during their inspections, they use tape to identify bags and equipment that have passed inspection.

    In addition to the equipment, 20 percent of the Marines entering the country also have their gear inspected for food, fruits, dirt or possible insects among their cargo that can contaminate Shoalwater Bay Training Area. If a single person fails, the entire unit will go through the inspection process.

    “It only takes one to contaminate the area,” said Nicholas. “Shoalwater Bay is very important to the Australian culture because of its wildlife and its preservation. If we allow one contaminated item or person to bypass the team, then we have failed our mission.”

    Talisman Saber includes combined special forces operations, airborne insertions, amphibious landings, land force maneuvers, urban and air operations and live fire exercises conducted by combined joint task forces all based on a fictional scenario. Close coordination with the U.S. military supports and strengthens the Australian Defence Force’s capability to defend Australia and its national interests.

    Shoalwater Bay Training Area provides realistic training for response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises and exposes military members to a variety of different terrain. Thick jungles, open plains, mangrove swamps and mountainous countryside each require different tactics, techniques and procedures to overcome.
    “The SWTBA gives us the ability to cover all those scenarios in one package,” said Australian Army Capt. Kael Da Costa, Environmental Monitoring Group Team 2 leader. “From the Marines that land on the beach, fighting in the thick jungle, navigating through the open savannah or woodland environment, commanders and Marines are posed with different sets of tactical problems.”

    Da Costa added that because Talisman Saber occurs within Australia’s territorial land and water, the EMG provides commanders with real-time advice on how to reduce their environmental risk based on environmental assessments that took place months before the Marines arrived in the area.

    “The assessments and surveys that all occurred here make our work possible by giving us the baseline understanding of what’s here, what’s important, and what the threats and risks are that we need to manage,” said Da Costa.

    In addition to its pristine location, the biodiversity of the SWBTA is well known and has been recognized internationally. Due to its large area, isolation from human settlement, access restrictions and generally low level of disturbance, SWBTA exhibits high natural integrity and provides a wide range of opportunities that U.S. and Australian forces want to preserve.

    “It is important to know that the U.S. Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force get the importance of this site,” said Da Costa. “They get the value of coming to a training area that is well-preserved while meeting the environmental requirements of the exercise in Australia.”



    Date Taken: 07.22.2013
    Date Posted: 08.02.2013 06:49
    Story ID: 111243

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