SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia — The Marines hugged the walls inside the buildings as they trained their eyes skyward from the edges of the windows. The low hum that drove them to cover became louder, and high above the town hung the silhouette of an Australian unmanned aerial vehicle.
Elements of Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, have held a defensive position since June 27, in an area called Raspberry Creek here during Exercise Hamel 2012, a multi-national training evolution between the U.S. Marines, Australian Army and New Zealand Army.
The Marines of 3rd platoon and weapons platoon, with Australian participants acting as either the local police force or the civilian populace, have been holed up in a simulated small town in preparation for an impending attack from the Australian 1st Brigade.
“They’re out there, but they’re being very cautious in how they advance,” said Lance Cpl. Luis Duran, squad automatic weapon gunner with Co. G., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU. “In the meantime, UAVs have been constantly flying overhead while small reconnaissance teams have been testing our defenses.”
First Brigade, the Australian Army unit who is undergoing certification for operational deployment during Exercise Hamel, is tasked with pushing back the Marine and Australian contingent and eventually eliminating them.
Per the scenario, as of the 1st of July, all Marine and Aussie advances have been repelled back to Raspberry Creek, which serves as a dividing terrain feature between the two forces.
“I give it up to the Australians for treating this exercise like it is a real conflict,” said Sgt. Jose Morales, squad leader with Co. G., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU. “Any procedures they would conduct in a combat environment are practiced, such as treatment of enemy prisoners of war. No corners are being cut in this exercise.”
Aside from various skirmishes past the Raspberry Creek lines, no major offensive has occurred. 1st Brigade has been preparing for the assault against the town through use of continuous UAV surveillance, flyovers by jet aircraft and ground reconnaissance.
Using recon hides and artillery assets of their own, the Marine reinforced contingency has been fending off 1st Brigade’s intelligence collection attempts and is keeping them at bay- for now.
“We’ve had the opportunity to continually reinforce the defences in and around the town as we fend off 1st Brigade,” said Lance Cpl. Theodore Kavich, team leader with 3rd plt., Co. G., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU.
The Marines will keep conducting response to contact drills throughout the town, but the continual threat of UAVs have kept them under the cover of the buildings. Until the 1st Brigade launches their offensive, the Marines are keeping a vigilant eye to the west.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.