DELAMERE TRAINING AREA, NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia — Marines and sailors with Company F participated in bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force and Marine Fighter-Attack Squadron 232 aircraft as part of Exercise Southern Frontier 2012 July 24-26.
Southern Frontier is a bilateral exercise conducted between the U.S. Marine Corps and Australian Defence Force in order to develop greater interoperability and a seamless response to regional crises. Company F is part of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and VMFA-232 is part of Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF.
"The purpose of this training is to build cohesion between the Marines and the ADF," said Cpl. Derek Spaulding, a squad leader for the Company F mortar section that participated in the exercise.
The Australian Army facilitated the Marines use of the training area and conducted concurrent operations within the scenario.
The Marines' role in the exercise was to provide accurate illumination for suppression of targets by Marine aircraft. To achieve this goal, the mortarmen used two 60 mm mortars to mark the targets.
"The integration of the mortars and the aircraft represents a unique training opportunity," said Lance Cpl. Alexander Lewandowski, a mortarman with the section. "It was really interesting to see both together."
Before the start of the fire mission, the Marines prepared a plan of action. Using natural items such as twigs and rocks, the Marines constructed a terrain model to study the area of operations. The Marines used this model to visualize the battlefield and decide where to set their mortars.
Once the mission was received, the Marines jumped into action. Both mortars were set up, and all orders given were relayed by every Marine to ensure none of the orders were misunderstood. The accuracy of the mortar crews was paramount, as a miscalculation could cause the pilots to attack the wrong target. When the command to fire was given, the crew braced the mortar systems and kept their heads down.
Immediately after firing a round, the crews quickly prepared the next round. Upon mission completion, the crews cleaned out the barrels of both systems and waited for further orders.
"The training here makes us more well-rounded," said Lewandowski. "We can work better with the Australians now because we understand how each other operates."
To thank the Australian Army staff at Delamere Training Area for assisting in its training, the section gave the Australians a Company F physical training shirt signed by each of the Marines.
"Everything has been going great working with the Australians," said Spaulding. "Being out here and being able to train, especially with the Australians, incorporates a lot of different training that we cannot do in the U.S."
During the remaining months of its deployment to Australia, Company F will conduct bilateral martial arts training, small-unit operations and other combat training with various supporting elements, all in close cooperation with the Australian Army's 1st Brigade, based at Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory.