FOG BAY, Australia – U.S. Marine and Australian amphibious forces conducted beach assault training recently as part of Talisman Sabre 2015.
The Marine Corps has long been synonymous with ship to shore operations. From the Marines’ first amphibious landing at the Battle of Nassau in 1776 to now, the Marine Corps has established itself as the premier force in amphibious assaults.
Now another Pacific power is making great strides in the realm of amphibious operations: the Australian Defense Force. Over the last few years, the ADF has taken steps to develop their own amphibious force.
In order to refine their own skills and increase interoperability with Australian amphibious forces, Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted a July 11 amphibious assault in concert with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment at Fog Bay, Australia.
“In 2011 or 2012, the 2nd Battalion was identified to be the land force for the amphibious development,” explained ADF Maj. Richard Thapthimthong, commanding officer of Combat Team Bravo, 2RAR, whose unit rode in Marine AAV-P7/A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicles during the assault. “Since then, in order to educate ourselves and be ready for amphibious operations, we’ve sought international experiences – be it individual embeds or going to different schools of amphibious operations around the world. This has been the first exercise where we’ve had an amphibious force come to Australia and show us how they operate.”
The Marines and Australians weren’t just attacking the same beach. They were integrated at the company level, with Marines and Australians riding in the same vehicles, being supported by the same aircraft, all working together to secure the same objectives.
“We must integrate down to the lowest, tactical level,” said Col. Romin Dasmalchi, the 31st MEU commander. “Planning together is not enough. If we are going to endure chaos together, we have to drill together and practice as often as we can. The only way to learn each other’s tactics is to have the Marines and ADF personnel confront tactical tasks together.”
The training consisted of a three-pronged assault: two separate landings at Native Beach and Stingray Beach, as well as an aerial insertion further inland. The Marines and Australians used everything from AAV-P7/A1 Assault Amphibious Vehicles to combat rubber raiding craft to land on the beaches, while AV-8B Harriers, MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions provided support from the air.
“The amphibious assault is not only a core task of the MEU, it is also one of the greatest training tools available to Marines, because it requires degrees of planning, coordination, and de-confliction that exercises every element of the team,” explained Lt. Col. Stephen Fiscus, commanding officer of BLT 2nd Bn., 5th Marines. “The detailed planning required to bring air and ground combat power ashore in a synchronized way requires Marines and sailors from every discipline to constantly coordinate at a level that no other type of operation can replicate. For the BLT specifically, applying combat power across multiple frontages has a massive dislocating effect on the enemy. Not only does it isolate the enemy and reduce his ability to mutually support, it allows us to rapidly generate tempo and momentum.”
After the combined forces secured a beachhead, they pressed inland to secure secondary objectives. Objectives secured, the forces assumed defensive positions for the night. The training evolution concluded the next morning, and the Marines and Australian moved on for further training as part of Talisman Sabre.
“Yesterday was easily one of the best experiences of my career,” said Thapthimthong, the morning after the assault. “It was such an eye opening and dynamic experience. It made me proud to be next to a fellow American company commander, to hit a beach and see hundreds of Australians and Marines securing the beach and projecting forward to our next objective.”
From the Marines’ perspective, the amphibious assault is just the first of many in training opportunities available during Talisman Sabre.
“The design of Talisman Sabre affords the BLT to exercise nearly all of its core capabilities from a dynamic, multi-faceted amphibious assault to sustained, combined arms live fire and maneuver ashore,” explained Fiscus. “Talisman Sabre is one of the few venues where a BLT has the opportunity to truly stride out and train across its full range of capabilities, and to do so with our Australian partners makes it even better.”