US Marine Corps, March 27, 2014 - MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII by Lance Cpl. Erik Estrada - Service members at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay departed here, March 25, to begin a six-month deployment to Australia’s Northern Territory as part of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.
Approximately 100 Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 (HMH-463) and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 24 (MALS-24), as well as four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters will be partaking in MRF-D this year, as part of an Aviation Combat Element. This marks the first year in which such an ACE has been part of MRF-D.
In November 2011, President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that U.S. Marines would deploy to Darwin and Northern Australia for approximately six months at a time.
This is the third deployment to MRF-D for Hawaii-based Marines, who also supported the first two deployments in 2012 and 2013 by sending approximately 200 infantrymen to each rotation.
“These types of deployments are really important to build our strategic partnerships around the Pacific as part of our pivot to the Asia[-Pacific] that the Marine Corps is focusing on,” said Lt. Col. Rich Matyskiela, commanding officer of HMH-463. “Australia is one of our key partners. Deployments like this really help strengthen our bonds.”
Along with the Hawaii Marines, approximately 1,000 Marines will be deploying from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., increasing the number of service members to almost six times the amount of previous rotations.
“The unique part of this rotation is that we have moved from a company of Marines to a whole battalion of Marines going to Australia,” Matyskiela said.
While deployed, the Marines will train in multiple exercises, including bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force, as well as subject matter expert exchanges with the New Zealand Defence Force and Tonga Defence Services.
In addition to military training, the Marines also plan to be involved in the local communities.
“A big part of the rotational force will be some our community relations, whether it is participating in the (Australian New Zealand Army Corps) Day Parade with the Australians, kind of their Memorial Day or our 4th of July Independence Day later on this year,” Matyskiela said.
He said his Marines look forward to being a part of the largest and most powerful force since the start of MRF-D.
“The Marines are very excited about this opportunity,” said Matyskiela. “To be the first to do anything is always a great opportunity to make a little bit of history.”