CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 22 completed the 11th iteration of the deployment on October 17, and returns home with a tremendous understanding of the conditions, procedures, and tactics necessary to fight and train in the Indo-Pacific, alongside a premier ally in Australia, and alongside outstanding allies and partners across the region.
Led by the 5th Marines, the first regimental headquarters as the command element, MRF-D 22 tested boundaries tactically, logistically, and in the information environment, and learned a great deal of how best to combine with the Australian Defence Force and other teammates such as Indonesia, Japan, and Timor Leste.
“This year our Marines and Sailors participated in over a dozen multinational exercises and events enhancing our partnerships with over 20 different nations including great teammates like Australia, Indonesia, and Japan.” Colonel Chris Steele, MRF-D 22 commanding officer
“Serving as the first regimental headquarters to lead MRF-D, we were able to further integrate two highly capable and interoperable forces to demonstrate the strength and endurance of our alliance and posture the team to contribute to regional security,” said Colonel Chris Steele, the commanding officer for MRF-D 22 and regimental commander for the historic 5th Marine Regiment.
Each element of the Marine Air Ground Task Force partnered with various units across the ADF and the international community, and took advantage of opportunities to learn and grow as a unit. As a MAGTF, MRF-D executed events and training in every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and utilized a significant amount of littoral-based training areas and exercise locations. These areas included multiple islands north of mainland Australia, such as the Tiwi Islands in the Timor Sea and South Goulburn Island in the Arafura Sea. Other littoral areas MRF-D used to train included the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and a jungle training center in Tully, Queensland, and the Yampi Sound Training Area in Western Australia. Utilizing these training locations allowed Marines and ADF soldiers to better combine in a simulated, contested, littoral environment and practice sea-denial tactics, techniques, and procedures.
The GCE partnered with various infantry and armored units across the ADF, mostly with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment of the 1st Brigade. Throughout their training, GCE Marines learned a lot about Indo-Pacific field craft, which allowed them to adjust to the high temperatures, humid air, and increased vegetation. The GCE trained across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland in littoral, jungle, and desert-like environments, learning quickly how to adapt to each through trial and error and support from the ADF. A significant adjustment to live-fire training here in Australia was the addition of thick vegetation; trees and heavy brush are rare in U.S. live-fire ranges due to the development of the areas and constant impacts clearing out the target locations. Adding trees to live-fire maneuver forced the GCE to adjust firing positions, communication techniques, and fields of fire throughout the training.
The ACE benefited significantly from their time in Australia. Due to Hawaii’s airspace limitations, the Australian training areas and population density allowed for a massive increase in flight time and exposure to diverse training areas for the MV-22 Osprey pilots, as well as great opportunities for the Marine Air Control Group and Marine Wing Support Squadron detachments to enhance their aviation support capabilities. The Low Altitude Air Defense platoon integrated with their RAAF counterparts and practiced simulated engagements on live aircraft through heavily-vegetated terrain and on the South Pacific islands, the RADAR teams utilized the terrain and international aviation exercises to enhance both aviation and maritime tracking capabilities, and the MWSS detachment greatly increased forward fuel resupply proficiency with standard and innovative methods, including the use of the Tactical Aviation Ground Refueling System and organic ADF systems.
Photo by Cpl. Cedar Barnes
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dexter Madrigal, a rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Ground Combat Element, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin 22, and Australian Army Pvt. Daniel Rochford, with 16th Battalion, Royal Western Australian Regiment, pose for a photograph under the stars after completing an airfield seizure event as part of exercise Koolendong 22, at Royal Australian Air Force Base Curtin, WA, Australia, July 19, 2022. Exercise Koolendong 22 is a combined and joint force exercise focused on expeditionary advanced base operations conducted by U.S. Marines, U.S. Soldiers, U.S. Airmen, and Australian Defence Force personnel.
Logistics functions provided some of the more difficult challenges to the MAGTF, but the LCE performed at a high level to learn and increase resupply, maintenance, and health support to MRF-D 22, in addition to other logistics expertise. Some of the primary logistics lessons learned included supply chain interoperability, non-standard connector employment, and water purification techniques. The LCE partnered with various ADF logistics elements to connect U.S. and Australian supply chains, allowing shared parts across both services to make their way into both U.S. and Australian equipment. Logisticians across the MAGTF learned a great amount about contracting and employing non-standard connectors and movement assets such as civilian barges, international small boats, ADF mechanized landing craft, and even seaplanes, which helped transport people and things across training areas and waterways to best support exercises and events. Water purification, a critical asset to support humanitarian assistance operations in the region, served as a training focus for multiple exercises during the deployment, and the Marines learned valuable lessons on how best to employ the assets.
A vital aspect of training in Australia was the tremendous support from our allied Australian units. While the Darwin-based 1st Brigade served as our primary partner, MRF-D trained alongside the full joint ADF team throughout the deployment. MRF-D worked directly with elements of the 6th, 7th, and 13th Brigades of the Australian Army, various lift and attack squadrons from the Royal Australian Air Force, and patrol boats with the Royal Australian Navy. MRF-D also worked and trained alongside members of the Regional Force Surveillance Group. The RFSG, whose roots dig back to the World War II Coastwatcher program, served as the connecting tissue to MRF-D and the local leaders. In many situations, the RFSG helped coordinate with the traditional owners and paved the way for MRF-D 22 and future iterations to train in a unique and expeditionary environment.
MRF-D 22 is grateful for the welcome and support of the ADF, the local Darwin community, and all the Australians and international teammates who supported our training and development throughout the deployment. The U.S.-Australian alliance, along with our shared alliances and partnerships across the Indo-Pacific are treasured, and MRF-D is excited to build those teams further in the future.
The 5th Marine Regiment, along with V3/7, VMM-268, and CLB-5, looks forward to handing over MRF-D to the next rotation of warfighters to further progress the MAGTF lines of effort and the capabilities necessary to support our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.