The Marine Corps is well known throughout the U.S. as the world’s finest fighting force. In the time of war, Marines are the first ones to answer the call and rush headstrong into the heat of battle. In periods of peacetime, Marines constantly train around the world waiting for the next call. One group of Marines in Australia currently designated as Marine Rotational Force – Darwin is getting a different perspective in combat training.
Approximately 200 Marines with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, arrived at Robertson Barracks in Darwin from Marine Corps Base Hawaii April 21. During their five-month deployment, the Marines have conducted a significant amount of bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force.
Company L, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines has completed several field operations with Australian forces, most recently Talisman Saber. The biennial exercise is designed to enhance multilateral collaboration between U.S. and Australian forces in support of future combined operations, humanitarian assistance and natural disaster response.
“As Marines we can be called to fight anywhere in the world and we’re used to that, but being deployed with the MRF-D has allowed us to train alongside the Australians,” said Cpl. Sean McKinney, team leader with 2nd platoon, Company L, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines and a native of Gaithersburg, Md. “We’re used to being the main effort in a lot of field ops, but it’s good to get a chance to see things from a different perspective.”
The MRF-D Marines are spread across the Shoalwater Bay Training Area playing different roles throughout the duration of the exercise. Role-playing most notably as allied and opposing forces, 2nd platoon and 3rd platoon Marines have stepped into those roles.
“The Marines always want to be the ones that go in and do the door-kicking and the fighting, but this shows them what it takes to get that kind of good training,” said 1st Lt. Wesley Nix, platoon commander of 3rd platoon, Company L, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, and a native of Columbia, S.C. “This exercise is meant to help them understand not to go through a town and cause mayhem and destruction. It gives them a greater understanding and buy-in to their next level of training.”
More than 100 Marines and Australian soldiers are role-playing as residents of mock villages called Waratah and Sam Hill, which are comprised of market vendors, insurgents and a police force. Australian forces have discovered the remote communities and have begun speaking with the leaders of the village in hopes of establishing a successful relationship.
“There’s something new to learn in every exercise. Our goal here is to differentiate situations with what we’re familiar with and examine them from another angle,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto Orantes, the platoon sergeant of 2nd platoon, Lima Company, 3rd. Bn., 3rd Marines, and a native of Los Angeles. “More than anything, it shows them a point of view from the enemy’s eyes. It’s easier for them to scrutinize each other, learn how not to act in a real combat environment and to take what they learn seriously.”
Playing different roles within the mock villages gives the Marines a look into how they are initially perceived when entering a real community not accustomed to foreign aid. Through their character’s role, they are able to display similar emotions toward Australian forces patrolling through the villages. These opportunities give the Marines insight and help them learn how to interact with real communities in future operations.
“It’s a unique experience when you play the role of somebody, like a neutral civilian,” said Cpl. Christopher Garza, a team leader with 3rd platoon, Company L, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, and a native of Houston. “You see, okay, maybe that day I just kicked in a dude’s door for reasons I thought were justifiable may not necessarily have been. It puts the shoe on the other foot.”
Throughout their deployment, the MRF-D Marines have completed different types of weapons ranges, raiding enemy compounds and outposts with their Australian counterparts. Company L, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines also conducted a Corporal’s Course that Australian soldiers completed alongside the Marines.
“Sometimes you train and sometimes you help to train,” Orantes said. “At the end of the day it’s about accomplishing the mission, and it takes both of us working together to do that.”