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US Marines arrive in Darwin post-COVID 19

12 Jun 2020 | Dylan Nicholson III Marine Expeditionary Force

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has welcomed the first group of 200 US Marines to RAAF Base Darwin as part of the ninth Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D).

Minister Reynolds said their arrival was the result of extensive planning and co-ordination between both nations to address challenges posed by COVID-19.


“MRF-D is an important initiative that deepens interoperability between the Australian Defence Force and the US military,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Australia’s alliance with the United States is our most important Defence relationship. It sends a clear signal about our commitment to the security and stability of our region.

“The fact that we were able to modify MRF-D and mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 to allow it to proceed is a strong testament of the resilience of our alliance.”

All Marines will be quarantined for 14 days at Defence facilities in the Darwin area, following biosecurity screening and COVID-19 testing on arrival. The Marines will be tested again for COVID-19 before exiting quarantine.

These arrangements have been established after close consultation with the Northern Territory government. The US Marines will train with ADF personnel at various Defence training facilities around the greater Darwin area, including Mount Bundey and Kangaroo Flats.

MRF-D will grow to 1,200 personnel over the next eight weeks and will train through to September. The rotation will finish with the signature MRF-D/ADF bilateral high-end warfighting activity, Exercise Koolendong. The Marines will then redeploy back to Japan and the US.

The MRF-D for 2020 had been paused in March as the COVID-19 pandemic spread and strict travel restrictions were put in place by governments across the world, including limiting military training operations.

The MRF–D initiative involves the annual rotation of US Marines through northern Australia for approximately six months during the dry season.

While in Australia, the MRF–D undertakes a range of activities including training unilaterally and with the Australian Defence Force and other Indo-Pacific nations. The MRF–D initiative has grown in size and complexity since the first rotation of 200 US Marines in 2012. The 2019 rotation consisted of 2,500 US Marines.

The decision was based on Australia’s record to date in managing the impacts from COVID-19, as well as strict adherence by deployed US Marines to the mandatory 14-day quarantine and other requirements.

Hosting this key alliance activity provides interoperability benefits as well as signals a firm joint commitment to regional security. It is a clear testimony to the strength and value of the Australia-US alliance.

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