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.

Warriors tiptoe around the C word

As a parade of senior Australian and United States commanders and their public affairs teams attempted to stay on message about the “humanitarian” aspects of the biggest military exercise ever in Australia — the shadow of China was cast over every facet of the intensive war gaming.

During a lightning visit to the exercise area on Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted that China appreciated that Australia was an ally of the United States.

Mr Abbott further confused things when he declined to rule out the possible future permanent basing of USA forces in Northern Australia.

The Marine Corps training rotation is scheduled to grow from 1100 now to 2200 in the next few years, but Mr Abbott left the door open for even greater access for USA forces to the deserted and wide-open training ranges of Northern Australia.

When asked specifically if there would be USA forces based in the north the prime minister was noncommittal.

“Let’s see what the future holds. I am not saying there will be more … but they shouldn’t shock or surprise anyone.”

Ask any of the thousands of USA Marines participating in Talisman Sabre — particularly those based on the tiny island of Okinawa in Japan — and they will tell you that the NT and Rockhampton are war games nirvana.

Man cut out of ute after crash with USA Marines truck

A man is cut out of a ute after it crashes with a USA Marines vehicle in Katherine in the NT.

Police said the crash happened at 1:45pm at the junction of the Victoria and Stuart highways.

The 34-year-old man was trapped in the ute for about 45 minutes while emergency services diverted traffic and attempted to free him from the wreckage.

Police told the ABC the man has been taken to Katherine Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The six-wheel off-road truck is called a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement - a vehicle used by the USA Marines to haul equipment and troops.

Sand to be cleaned and replaced after USA navy fuel spill on popular Darwin beach

AUSTRALIAN and American environmental specialists were cleaning up a suspected fuel spill at a popular Darwin beach on Wednesday.

The ADF and Marines were notified of a marine fuel spill on Casuarina Beach, off Lee Point on Tuesday.

Results of sand quality testing revealed an area about 20m long and 10m wide that may have been contaminated in a spill which occurred during an amphibious offload as a part of Exercise Talisman Sabre — Australia’s largest combined military exercise, which runs through until July 21.

A spokesman said the ADF had “notified all appropriate government agencies”.

“The ADF’s environmental team took immediate steps to cordon the area and began to assess the extent of the incident,” he said.

It’s not known what caused the spill.

"It’s not known what caused the spill" - you don't think it might have been that big old Landing Craft that kept coming up onto the sand?