MOUNT BUNDY TRAINING AREA, Northern Territory, Australia -- Marines were positioned and camouflaged throughout a tree line. They waited patiently for their Australian partners to arrive before executing an assault at the urban operations training facility at Mount Bundy Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia, Sept. 5.
The roar of massive M1A1 tank engines echoed between the walls of the training facility as the machines rolled down the dirt road and past the first two buildings. Their job was to provide cover fire and support while Marines rushed into each building and cleared it while taking simulated enemy fire from role-players.
The attack was one of the first scenarios in a three-week bilateral field training exercise between elements of the Australian Army and Marine Rotational Force ? Darwin, composed primarily of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. The exercise was the culminating bilateral field training event of the Marines' inaugural rotation to Australia, which began in April.
In this exercise, the Marines had the support of 2nd Troop, A Squadron, 1st Armored Regiment, Australian Army.
"I think this training really helped both my guys (the tank operators and crewmen) and the Marines because they were able to operate with different forces and integrate," said Australian Army Sgt. Nicholas Zerafa, a troop sergeant with 2nd Troop. "We started off slow at first but worked on our weaknesses together, and the raid got a lot smoother and faster throughout the day."
According to Staff Sgt. Stephen Kephart, a platoon sergeant with Company F, the integration of Australian soldiers provided a unique training opportunity for both forces.
"(The Australians) were extremely professional and knew their job very well, which helped a lot in completing our overall mission," Kephart said. "This whole mission was conducted to help the Marines better understand and work with mechanized assets in conjunction with urban operations."
"The soldiers brought a lot to the table and really helped us achieve that focus," added Kephart.
During the exercise, Marines cleared thirteen buildings while maneuvering under cover fire from the tanks.
"Most of us have never worked with tanks before, so it was a little different than what we were used to," said Lance Cpl. Gianni Pacheco, a rifleman with Company F. "I was the radio operator for the platoon and was able to communicate with the soldiers inside the tanks.
"When we were all on the same page and communicating, everything went real smooth, and it was just a motivating experience."
After completing the training scenario, many Marines provided positive feedback on the bilateral exercise.
"I think a lot of them realized that working with assets like this is very important," Kephart said. "I know a lot of them really would jump on the opportunity to do it again. Overall, it was an outstanding opportunity to work with our brothers in arms."