2014-04-22 by Robbin Laird
Lieutenant Gen. Terry Robling, commanding general of US Marine Corps Forces Pacific, speaks in front of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin about the relationship between the Australian Defence Force and the United States Marine Corps and the honor Brig. Michael Harris displayed on behalf of both forces in Vietnam, in Darwin April 22, 2014.
The Brigadier Was given the title of “Honorary Marine,” which can only bestowed by the Commandant of the USMC and has been given to less than 100 people in the history of the USMC.
Harris received the Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device for his heroic actions in Vietnam while serving as the commanding officer of Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment. Harris was the first non-American to lead Marines in combat during the Vietnam War.
The ADF has served alongside the USMC in every major conflict since World War II and remains one of the strongest allies of the United States.
Recently, Brigadier Gen. John Frewen, commanding officer, 1st Brigade, Australian Army welcomed the Marines to Australia for their first rotation under a new agreement between Australia and the United States.
In the welcome, the CO provided an overview of the deep relationship between the Australian forces and the USMC, but reminded other powers in the Pacific, that the Australians were working closely with the USN-USMC team and would work hard to protect their regional interests.
“Our nations and militaries have very long standing relationships…. We have operated under your command and you have operated under ours in the First World War as well as in Afghanistan… The Marine Corps presence today in Australia is a very tangible symbol to our region that we stand together committed to peace and stability in the region.”
Credit: Marine Rotational Force Darwin
The 6 month rotation in Australia is an important part of the distributed laydown and building convergent capabilities among core allies and partners in the region. Notably, a key element in shaping a 21st century Pacific defense structure is working convergent or cross-cutting modernization between the United States and key allies like Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia.
And those allies are working their own cross cutting convergence often in multinational exercises sponsored by the United States in the Pacific or US training ranges. For example, the Australian Wedgetail commanded and controlled allied aircraft in a recent Red Flag exercise with South Korean and Japanese F-15s as part of the force. And this was after the South Korean F-15 crossed through Japanese airspace to get to the exercise.
At the end of my visit to Australia, I discussed the upcoming MRF-D rotaton with Lt. General Robling, the Commanding Officer of the Marine Forces in the Pacific or MARFORPAC. According to Robling:
It’s not about just building relationships in the region. It is about collective security in the region. Building collective security requires, in part, a process of building partner capacity, and working convergent capacities to shape effective and mutually beneficial relationships which underlie the evolution of collective security.
Our working relationship with Australia is a case in point. Even though they see themselves… rightly… as an island continent, they’ve really got to be part of the entire region’s ability to respond to crisis, both natural and manmade. To do this, they can’t stay continent bound, and must engage forward in the greater Asia Pacific region.
By becoming part of a collective Pacific security apparatus, they get the added benefit of defending their nation away from their borders. The Australian military is small in comparison to the US, but it is a lethal and technologically sophisticated force. In the face of a large-scale threat, they, like the US and others in the region, wouldn’t be able to defend by themselves. They would have to be a part of a larger collective security effort and ally with the US or other likeminded nations in the region in order to get more effective and less costly defense capabilities pushed farther forward.
The MRF-D rotation comes at an important point in the Australian modernization effort itself.
The Marines are viewed as important contributors to working with the Australians to enhance their own joint force operational approach as new capabilities are added, notably the F-35. And Australian modernization benefits the USN-USMC team in the region as well as the Aussies add important new capabilities to their forces which can contribute directly to enhanced coalition operational performance.