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United States Force Posture Initiatives

Marine Rotational Force – Darwin

The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) sees a contingent of US Marines and their equipment rotate through Northern Australia during the dry season. While in Australia, the MRF-D undertake a range of activities, combined exercises and training with the Australian Defence Force and regional partners.

The MRF-D has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of 200 US Marines through Darwin in 2012, through to reaching the milestone of 2500 Marines in 2019. It is now a highly capable force that provides significant opportunities to enhance interoperability with the Australian Defence Force.

MRF-D composition will vary from year to year as a consequence of the activities being undertaken with the ADF and regional partners each year.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 MRF-D rotation has been modified with strict measures in place to mitigate the risks of transmission. Approximately 1200 US Marines will visit Australia, exercising exclusively at Defence training areas within the Northern Territory from June until September 2020.

Key activities

During their rotation through Northern Australia, the MRF-D conduct a range of activities that challenge their force composition and the range of equipment they bring each year.

These are some of the key activities they participate in with the Australian Defence Force and regional partners at a range of training areas in Australia and throughout the region. Due to COVID-19, key activities planned for 2020 have been modified or postponed.

2020 MRF-D rotation and COVID-19 impact

After careful consideration, the Australian Government determined that the safe conduct of a modified MRF-D deployment could occur, subject to the deployment adhering to strict measures in place to protect against COVID-19.

In line with the Australian Government’s firm commitment to ensuring the ongoing health and safety of the Australian people, with special provision for vulnerable indigenous communities, the deployment adheres to all current restrictions for mitigating COVID-19 risks.

  • All incoming US Marines will complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.
  • As an additional measure, the United States undertook measures to ensure all incoming US Marines will begin pre-screening four days prior to arrival.
  • All US Marines will undergo testing on entry and exit of quarantine.
  • The US Marines are training exclusively at Defence facilities in the Northern Territory throughout their deployment.

Defence consulted Northern Territory Government officials, in particular Northern Territory Health, during the planning for the deployment.

Exercise Koolendong

Exercise Koolendong is MRF-D’s major annual bilateral warfighting exercise conducted under the initiatives. United States Marine Corps-led, the exercise focuses on enhanced readiness, increased interoperability with the Australian Defence Force.

Exercise Carabaroo

Exercise Carabaroo is a trilateral urban operations activity involving the MRF-D, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Australian Defence Force. This exercise centres on warfare in urban operations training facilities to develop drills and enhance interoperability.

Exercise Crocodile Response

A new Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief activity – Exercise Crocodile Response – occurred in 2019 with the MRF-D. This exercise enhances coordination between Australia and the US in responding to natural disasters in the region. In 2019, officials from the Indonesian Armed Forces, Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency and Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency observed the activity and shared their significant operational Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief experience.

Exercise Southern Jackaroo

Exercise Southern Jackaroo is an Australian Army-led two-week trilateral ground exercise involving participants from Japan and the US, including elements of the MRF-D.

Australia, Japan and the US have shared interests in peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. Exercise Southern Jackaroo demonstrates the close defence relationship between the countries, and a shared commitment to increasing interoperability and deepening the sophistication of trilateral exercises.

Exercise Talisman Sabre

Exercise Talisman Sabre is the principal Australia-US bilateral military training activity. It is conducted biennially and focuses on mid-intensity, high-end warfighting.

The exercise reflects the closeness of the Australia and US alliance and strength of the enduring military relationship.

It is designed to support Australian, US military Services and other Government agencies in planning and conducting Combined and Joint Task Force operations, and improve the combat readiness and interoperability between Australian and US forces.

Community involvement

Members of the MRF-D engage broadly and positively with local communities during rotations.

The engagement includes volunteering at schools and Indigenous communities, contributing to local Australian Defence Force activities, participating in local ANZAC Day activities and supporting natural disaster clean up, including post-Cyclone Marcus in March 2018.

US Marine Corps Force – Marine Rotational Force-Darwin

The official website of the US Marine Corps contains the latest updates on the MRF-D, including news, video and images.

Enhanced Air Cooperation

Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) involves increased participation of US air elements in a range of training activities and exercises with the Australian Defence Force in order to foster greater integration between both countries. EAC provides a range of regional engagement activities in the Indo-Pacific region.