NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia – September 1, 2015 — Exercise Talisman Sabre is a biennial, multinational, exercise designed to enhance bilateral collaboration in support of future combined operations, natural disasters and humanitarian emergency response. This year, the exercise featured approximately 33,000 troops, 200 aircraft and 21 ships.
The environmental impact that exercises like Talisman Saber have is an issue that warrants attention and expertise. This year, Marine Forces Reserve helped provide that expertise.
A detachment of Marines from MARFORRES combined with an Australian Army environmental team helped to ensure that the necessary safety steps were taken during the exercise to protect the Australian continent from possible pollutants.
The MARFORRES detachment was from the Environmental Service Division, a unit of Reserve Marines who provide environmental and safety expertise, hazardous materials and safety management, and incident command liaison to the commander in support of operations and major training exercises.
“The team of 30 worked at a number of different locations across the continent in support of Talisman Saber,” said Maj. Glenn Davis, environmental operations officer, MARFORRES. “They worked with the Australian forces for military equipment preclearance. We also had Marines on a number of ships inspecting departing and arriving aircraft for weeds and seeds, while the land-based team mostly monitored the physical environment alongside the Australians.”
In the months of planning prior to the exercise, it became apparent that the beaches selected for the exercise were used by sea turtles as a nesting ground. With this information in hand, the environmental team began taking steps to ensure the safety of the unborn turtles.
According to Dr. Michael Guinea, a marine biologist, the environmental team had monitored the number of turtles nesting on the beach landing sites, which involved doing a preliminary survey about seven weeks out from the anticipated landing dates.
Once the surveys were complete, the locations were marked and protected during a brief time for incubation.
“When we have identified a nest and allowed it to incubate for at least 14 days, we can uncover the nest by looking at the tracks and finding out where the eggs were deposited, excavating the nest, marking them, and relocating them to a safe location,” said Guinea.
After the eggs were excavated, they were moved to a different location far enough from the landing locations to be safe.
“The scale of Talisman Saber brings it to a higher level of fidelity for environmental management,” said Australian Army Lt. Col. Pevlin Price, Environmental Management Group deputy chief. “We have developed and implemented arrangements so that we can meet our obligations back to the federal department of the environment. Working with the departments from the Northern Territory government, the local indigenous stake holders, and various defense organizations has enabled us to bring this very complex activity to the point we have.”
The relocation of the eggs is just one of many environmental protection efforts accomplished by the military. With each new exercise and operation come different environmental issues that could arise and well-trained teams are always close by to provide solutions.