U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific is resuming the deployment of Marines and Sailors in support of the annual Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) in Australia.
The U.S. and Australian governments decided in late March to delay the rotation due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to resume the deployment comes as the government of Australia is granting an exemption to current travel restrictions to allow the 2020 MRF-D rotation to proceed, based on Australia’s record to date in managing impacts from COVID-19 as well as strict adherence by deployed U.S. Marines to the mandatory 14-day quarantine and other requirements.
“The Marine Corps is committed to ensuring the health and safety of its forces and the Australian people, including local indigenous communities. We continue to work closely with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) on the force composition, timing and planned training”, said a USMC statement.
“The U.S. remains committed to our mutual defense treaty with Australia and to enhancing interoperability and capability between the Marine Corps and the ADF, which benefits each country’s security and contributes to stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The changes to this year’s deployment do not change the plans for those in subsequent years”, the statement added.
According to the Australian Department of Defence, the first group of U.S. Marines will disembark at RAAF Base Darwin in early June, beginning the Australian component of a detailed quarantine and testing regime.
Each Marine will be screened four days prior to departure. They will then be screened and tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia, before being quarantined for 14 days at specially prepared Defence facilities in the Darwin area. Each Marine will be then re-tested at the conclusion of the quarantine period.
This year’s modified rotation will involve around 1,200 Marines who will exercise exclusively at Australian Defence Forces (ADF) training areas in the Northern Territory until September.
The MRF–D initiative involves the annual rotation of U.S. Marines through Northern Australia for approximately six months during the dry season. While in Australia, the MRF–D undertakes a range of activities including training unilaterally and with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and other Indo–Pacific nations.
The MRF–D initiative has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of 200 U.S. Marines in 2012. The 2019 rotation consisted of 2,500 US Marines and is the most capable to date, including a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), TPS–80 radar system and an Aviation Combat Element including MV–22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and UH/AH–1 helicopters.
The MRF–D 2019 rotation also included an enhanced Command Element headed by a Colonel, a Ground Combat Element and a Logistics Combat Element. This deployment provided opportunities to further deepen interoperability with the ADF.