Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia (September 13, 2013) – Marines moved through the extreme heat and arid terrain of the Australian outback to engage a simulated militia group of rebels armed with 82 mm mortars, vehicles and other weaponry.
This movement-to-contact exercise was just one of three in which Australian soldiers and U.S. Marines worked together to eliminate the “enemy” threat as part of Exercise Koolendong at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia, Sept. 1-4.
The Australian soldiers are with Company B, 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, and the Marines are with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, along with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, and the 31st MEU are part of III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“Exercise Koolendong was about three days of live-fire activity, focusing on platoon-size attack ranges,” said Capt. Raymond F. L’Heureux, Jr., the Company L commanding officer. “The MEU did a movement-to-contact exercise where Co. L basically acted as one of the supporting efforts and conducted their range as if part of a larger operation.”
To prevent the advancement of the simulated force, MRF-D Marines executed a plan-of-attack.
“We had to use a platoon-sized reinforced attack to pin them down and eliminate the vehicles and threat of the mortar systems,” said 1st Lt. Wesley M. Nix, the platoon commander with Co. L. “We wanted to make sure the enemy couldn’t (escape).”
The MRF-D Marines accomplished this mission by employing the firepower of their riflemen, assaultmen, mortarmen and machine gunners.
“The goal was to have the mortarmen engage the enemy first, while the machine gunners set up their support by fire,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Hubbert, platoon sergeant with Co. L. “As soon as the mortarmen had effective rounds, the machine gunners started their supporting by fire. At that point, the riflemen maneuvered to the objectives. The assaultmen embedded with the riflemen eliminated the two enemy vehicles with shoulder-fired, multipurpose assault weapon rockets.”
Each day, MRF-D Marines traveled to the ranges on foot, vehicle or aircraft.
“The range itself stayed the same through every execution, but the methods of insertion changed,” said L’Heureux. “For the movement-to-contact, we used 7-ton trucks and then executed an air assault via an MV-22B Osprey and two CH-53E Super Stallions. It just allowed us to practice different methods of travel to our objectives using the different capabilities we have as a unit.”
Overall, the exercise served as a proof of concept to assess the capacity of the ranges to support a battalion-sized, live-fire event.
“It’s a good training area where you can get a lot of things done,” said L’Heureux.
More than 1,000 Marines and Australian soldiers who trained at Bradshaw Field Training Area made their point loud and clear; they can successfully send rounds down range while sustaining themselves deep in the outback.