US Marine deployment in Darwin no threat to Indonesia, says Commanding Officer Lt Col Brian S. Middleton

INDONESIA has nothing to fear from the deployment of US Marines in the Territory, the Commanding Officer of the Marine Rotational Force Darwin said on Tuesday.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton had just landed with the first 200 of 1250 US marines who will form the sixth and most complex US marine air ground taskforce to be deployed to the Territory.

Although reluctant to comment on the issue, Lt-Colonel Middleton said he was aware of comments made by Indonesia’s armed forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo in January questioning the US marine presence in Darwin.

General Nurmantyo said while pretending to be on a visit to Darwin he spent 90 minutes on the harbour looking at US marine facilities.

“I saw two landing bases had already been built. Even though Australia is a continental state — what does it need marines for?” he told Indonesian media.

The Indonesian general has previously criticised Australia’s hosting of US marines.

“I am aware of his comments … Indonesia has nothing to fear from US marine deployments to Darwin,” he said. “The US alliance with Australia remains strong and we know why we are here. That is for US Marines and Aussie Diggers to train and operate alongside each other.”

It is believed General Gatot Nurmantyo has political ambitions and Lt-Colonel Middleton agreed that the General’s comments were probably aimed at local consumption. However, he pulled no punches when asked about the role the 1250-strong marine air ground taskforce deployment would play if tensions between his country and North Korea escalated into direct conflict.

 

US troops arrive in Top End for Marine Rotational Force Darwin

Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton, says the 1250 US Marine deployment to Darwin stands ready to fight if tensions between his country and North Korea escalate into direct conflict.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton said when US Marines were in forward deployment they were ready for battle.

Lieut. Colonel Middleton is leading the sixth and most complex US marine air-ground task force to be deployed to the Territory.

Along with the 1250 marines that make up the latest Darwin rotation of US troops, it will eventually include up to 13 aircraft, four tilt-rotor Ospreys, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters.

When asked about the North Korea stand-off he said: “We stand ready to fight.”

The marines are from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton, California. They will be based at Robertson Barracks, RAAF Base Darwin and Defence Establishment Berrimah.

Marine Rotational Force Darwin is mainly a series of joint exercises, training and exchanges between the US and the Australian Defence Force, but some exercises will also involve military personnel from China and other Asian countries.

The US has rotated a small force of Marines through Darwin since 2012. It was originally planned to send a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force of 2500 Marines to Australia by 2016, but the timeline has been pushed back to around 2020.

US marines arriving in NT ready for anything

More than 1,000 US marines begin arriving in the Top End and say they are ready for whatever may happen as North Korea escalates its nuclear threat.

The first group of 1,250 marines touched down in Darwin on Tuesday morning for their sixth annual dry season rotation in the Top End.

Their arrival comes as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended US President Donald Trump's "they gotta behave" message to North Korean leadership after its failed missile test on Sunday.

"[North Korea] is on a path to achieving nuclear weapons capability and we believe Kim Jong-un has a clear ambition to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload as far as the US," Ms Bishop said.

"That would mean Australia would be in reach so unless it is prevented from doing so, it will be a serious threat to the peace and stability of our region, and that is unacceptable."

In Darwin, the rotation's commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Brian Middleton said the force was ready, come what may.

"Any time a marine force is forward deployed, we are always on standby for anything," he said.
He said this year's contingent was "the most robust package" the marines had put together for training in the Top End, featuring an "ace aviation combat element" of 13 aircraft.

Over the next two weeks, the deployment's largest fleet of military aircraft yet will be brought to Australia as part of the agreement, including four high-speed troop transporters, the MV-22 Osprey, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters. The next six months will see the troops train with their Australian counterparts and other nations, including Japan and China.

Turnbull expects USA military presence in Top End to increase under Trump

THE US military presence in the Territory is likely to be enhanced under President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed yesterday.

Around 1250 US marines and 13 aircraft will be deployed to the Top End in April.

It will be the third and most complex rotation of US troops.

“We have a strong ally in Washington and the US’s continuing strong presence in our region, which President Trump has committed to, is of vital importance for all of us,” he said.

 

“I expect, based on discussions I’ve had with the US President, the US presence in the region will remain strong and is more likely to be enhanced. We’ve seen General (James) Mattis, the new Defence Secretary, has been travelling through the region providing very strong reassurance to America’s friends and allies in the region."

Marines rock solid in Darwin under Trump

The US Marines are coming to Darwin. That’s the firm opinion of Australia’s Defence Force.

An ADF spokesman said the marine presence in Darwin would not change under the new administration of US President Donald Trump.

He said Australia and the US were now working on full implementation of a 25 year defence agreement between the two countries.

This year’s US Marine rotation, arriving in Darwin in April, is forecast to be the most complex Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed to Australia.

Around 1250 marines and up to 13 aircraft, including four MV-22 Ospreys, will create opportunities for more complex and sophisticated training activities.

Concerns about the deployment had been raised following Mr Trump’s election as US President and his comments that allies should contribute more financially towards a US military presence in their countries.

“No, there is no suggestion that the marine deployment to Darwin is up for review,” an ADF spokesman said.

 

“The size and composition of each marine rotation to Australia is mutually determined based on the nature of the training, planned regional engagement activities, other resource commitments and respective national priorities,” the ADF spokesman said. “As this is a 25 year agreement, it was important to reach a sustainable approach for both sides ... we continue to work closely with the US to refine infrastructure requirements and implementation plans to support MRF-D rotations into the future.”