US Marines in Australia for training programme

Indo Asian News Service

Canberra, April 18 (IANS) More than 1,000 US Marines on Tuesday arrived in Darwin as part of a rotation of forces to be stationed in northern Australia.

The 1,250 troops who arrived in the Northern Territory (NT) will soon be joined by 13 aircraft -- four tilt-rotor Osprey helicopters, five Super Cobra helicopters and four Huey helicopters -- in one of the largest deployments of US forces to Australia since World War II.

Commanding Officer of Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Lieutenant Colonel Brian S. Middleton told the media: "The aviation combat element is our most robust deployment to Darwin."

"I think the commitment that we've taken to put a task force here with a conversation to get larger over the years says that we do think this is an important region," Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

"Being close to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, the Indo-Pacific position has always been important."

Middleton said the Marines would conduct "important exercises alongside with Chinese partners" and Australia. Troops from the three countries are conducting annual joint exercises codenamed Kowari since 2014.

Brigadier Ben James, Commander of Australia's 3,000-strong 1st Brigade based in Darwin, said he looked forward to working alongside with his US counterparts.

"We're very much looking forward to a great six-month rotation where we can train, operate and exercise alongside with our most important ally," James said.

The rotation is part of a deal struck between former US President Barack Obama and his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard in 2011.

It is the first large-scale arrival of US troops since the arrangement was signed, with a small number of Marines having been sent to Darwin for training since 2012.

Northern Territory's Chief Minister Michael Gunner said Darwin was proud to be a defence town.

"We welcome the arrival of American troops as part of our long-term partnership and friendship," Gunner said.

"They provide an important economic boost which comes at a time when many territory businesses are doing it tough," he said.

"We first welcomed US defence personnel and ships in the days following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941."

A report by Deloitte Access Economics found that the Marines would inject $3.7 million into the NT economy annually.