Marines begin Exercise Koolendong 2014
US Marine Corps, August 16, 2014 - TIMBER CREEK, Australia by Cpl. James Gulliver, Marine Rotational Force Darwin - An 81 mm mortar landed in the nearby enemy position, marking the beginning of the assault for the Marines. Immediately they emerged from the tree line engaging the enemy targets at more than 100 yards with pinpoint accuracy. Within minutes the enemy position was destroyed and the Marines were pushing through to their next target.
The Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, participated in a live fire range during Exercise Koolendong, Aug. 14, 2014. The range was designed to prepare the Marines for the large scale bilateral operations in the final section of the exercise.
During Exercise Koolendong, approximately 1500 Marines and Australian Defence Force personnel will undertake a wide spectrum of infantry training activities to include establishing an expeditionary operating base in austere conditions, company-sized helicopter and ground live-fire ranges, and a final capstone fire and maneuver exercise executed bilaterally with members of 1 Brigade involving infantry, tanks, artillery and engineers.
“This range is a platoon size assault designed to give our guys confidence at the platoon level,” said Gunnery Sgt. Don Turner, platoon sergeant with Alpha Co., 1st Bn. 5th Marines. “This helps them prepare for the company sized assaults where we will be utilizing multiple assets from the entire rotational force.”
Working at the platoon level allows the commander a close look at his Marines, and enables him to fine tune elements of his section that training at the company level does not allow, said Turner.
“My objective during the assault was to get my team through the breach created in the enemy position,” said Cpl. Daniel Espinoza, fire team leader with Alpha Co., 1st Bn. 5th Marines. “There is a lot of adrenaline in you when you’re performing one of these ranges, the key is to stay calm and focus on making the right decisions for your section.”
The Marines will continually advance in the size of operations throughout the exercise until ending their three week long training with a combined arms assault with the Australian Defence Force. Exercise Koolendong is designed to improve both forces interoperability and capacity to effectively respond to regional to regional crises and contingencies.
“This exercise offers us a unique training experience that is hard to find in the U.S.,” said Espinoza. “The environment is very unique, forcing us to adapt to our surroundings. It also gives my new guys the experience of training in a different setting.”
Before the ranges began Marines were given an opportunity to evaluate and modify them to suit their training needs, and created a set of obstacles to overcome.
“Letting us set up the ranges gives our command a lot of freedom in the type of training they want the Marines to perform,” said Turner. “We do not get the opportunity to do this often and its excellent experience for our Marines.”
For the past six-months Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, have been conducting training with their Australian counterparts and improving relations with the local community.
“This deployment has been very beneficial for us as a battalion,” said Espinoza. “We have never experienced training like this and we are coming away a better battalion, and better Marines because of it.”
Koolendong will conclude the six-month long deployment for the Marines, who will be returning home in October.
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MRF-D Marine Rotational Force Darwin US Marine Corps