News: 31st MEU Marines arrive in Australia for Exercise Hamel 2012
Story by Cpl. Jonathan Wright
ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - Throughout the past week, Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, have arrived in Rockhampton, Australia, to participate in the Exercise Hamel 2012.
The troops will be supporting the month-long exercise at the Australian Defense Force's Shoalwater Bay Training Area, focusing primarily on ground engagement and defense procedures. This exercise serves as the Australian Army's 1st Brigade certification exercise.
If successfully executed, the brigade's operational status will progress from "readying" to "ready," making it fully qualified to deploy in support of any contingency operation.
"The exercise will confirm the operational competency of the brigade, placing it in that "ready" status for one year," said Australian Army Maj. Nick Murnane, camp commandant cell (executive officer) of Camp Rocky. "Within that year, the brigade is prepared to deploy to any number of foreign engagements we are currently involved in."
Falling under the command of the ADF, akin to the U.S.'s Department of Defense, the Marines of G. Co. will train alongside other defense personnel from New Zealand and Canada. The Marines of G. Co. are the only U.S. military unit participating in this multi-national training evolution.
During Exercise Hamel, the Marines will be acting as the brigade's opposition force, tasked with defending an area of SBTA against the Australian unit. The Marine Corps will expose the Australian Army to different tactics, techniques and procedures than they are used to when skirmishing within their own units. The Marines’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, snipers and mortars will force the certifying brigade to react to a unique and highly skilled enemy.
"Without the Marines' presence, we wouldn't be able to combat a decent force with a different set of operational tactics," said Murnane. "Having them (G. Co) as the opposition force gives the soldiers the need to adapt to their techniques."
For the Marines, Exercise Hamel will help them to hone their reactive defense skills and familiarize them with a unique terrain by living in the field for weeks at a time.
"Participating in Exercise Hamel is a great opportunity to get us back into the field skills, including long-range patrolling fundamentals, and sustaining ourselves in the field without resupply for up to four days at a time," said Capt. John Zaal, commanding officer of G. Co., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU.
With 1st Brigade operating on the western side of SBTA, they will push east towards the Marines’ defensive positions. Teaming up with other Australian opposition forces, the Marines of G Co. will attempt to repel the soldiers’ armored advance utilizing their combined defensive tactics.
While the Marines’ primary role is to serve as the hostile force during the main event of the exercise, the Marines and their Australian counterparts will also conduct multiple bilateral training events. The two forces will share tactics, familiarize each other with weapons systems and even participate in some friendly rugby matches.
"One of the biggest takeaways from the exercise will be interacting with the foreign troops and building our relationships," said Zaal. "To have those relationships, either through operational exercises or after-hours events, helps us prepare for whenever we work with the Australians again."
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation's force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.