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An Australian Army Engineer and U.S. Marine build a barbed wire fence during exercise Crocodile Response at Point Fawcett, NT, Australia, May 25.

Photo by Sgt. Micha Pierce

U.S. Marines in Australia are ready to rapidly provide assistance to regions affected by a natural disaster

7 Jun 2021 | 1st Lt. Gabriel Lechuga Marine Rotational Force - Darwin

Marine Rotational Force – Darwin and the Australian Defence Force successfully completed a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise called “Crocodile Response,” May 28.

The focus of Crocodile Response was to increase the readiness of the U.S. Marines and Sailors in Darwin and their ability to conduct foreign humanitarian assistance operations in the event of a natural disaster in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Marine Rotational Force – Darwin needs to be ready to support our allies in the region by rapidly responding to a crisis such as a natural disaster, should the need arise,” said MRF-D Commanding Officer Col. David M. Banning.

During the field training phase of the exercise, U.S. Marines and the Australian Defence Force honed their ability to conduct support activities such as purifying water, clearing trees and brush from roadways, coordinating the transportation and delivery of troops and large equipment, establishing landing zones and providing basic medical care.

“One of the most important things we can do after a country is hit by a natural disaster is provide medical support to the affected community. Our medical capabilities allow us to provide first aid, immediate life saving measures and triage, as well as prevent disease,” said U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Julian Gordon.

Crocodile Response was conducted in three phases: the joint humanitarian operations training phase, the table top exercise phase, and the field exercise phase. The three phases ensured that the U.S. Marines, the Australian Defence Force, the U.S. Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade built upon learned skills to enhance everyone’s understanding of policies that allow the military to provide humanitarian support in an affected country, as well as to raise awareness of each other’s capabilities and planning processes.

“Exercise Crocodile Response is an annual civil military exercise that strengthens humanitarian response capability between Australia, the United States and Indonesia." James Gilling, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Humanitarian Coordinator


“The Joint Humanitarian Operations Course was great because it outlined all the requirements and steps our governments need to take for us to provide assistance with the Australian Defence Force and other government agencies like the U.S. Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” said Engineer Platoon Commander 1st Lt. Marcus Jones.

The table top exercise phase helped develop proficiency with the Marine Corps’ rapid response planning process. This process ensures that when Marines receive a mission, they are able to plan and begin execution of the mission on short notice. Planning was done in coordination with all exercise participants to synchronize humanitarian assistance efforts.

“Exercise Crocodile Response is an annual civil military exercise that strengthens humanitarian response capability between Australia, the United States and Indonesia. Effective coordination with our military partners is essential for any civilian-led humanitarian relief effort,” tweeted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Humanitarian Coordinator James Gilling.

The exercise concluded with the final phase, a five-day field training exercise at Point Fawcett on the Tiwi Islands. During this phase, U.S. Marines and the Australian Defence Force used the Marine Corps’ ability to transport troops and equipment with the MV-22B Osprey, used the Australian Army’s ability to transport equipment with their Landing Craft Mechanized, Mark 8 and conducted many of the foreign humanitarian assistance activities Marine Rotational Force – Darwin was tasked with accomplishing.

“Deploying side by side, using both Australian Defence Force watercraft and U.S Marine Corps aircraft allows us to get to know each other’s processes, policies and procedures at the personal level and organizationally, proving the plans and capabilities we have in place to respond to a humanitarian crisis together,” said an Australian Defence Force exercise controller, 1st Lt. Bryce Williams.

Other participants included service members from the Philippines and Malaysia who took part in the joint humanitarian operations training phase. Additionally, officials from the Indonesian National Armed Forces, and representatives from Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency and Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency observed throughout the exercise and shared their significant operational experiences.

All participants quarantined for two weeks in Australia and strictly adhered to all COVID-19 mitigation measures in accordance with Australian health protocols.

The year 2021 marks the 10th anniversary of MRF-D, which has proven to be a significant force for stability and security in the region. It has created new opportunities for regional engagement and has better postured the U.S. and Australia to respond to crises in the Indo-Pacific.