US Marines with 1st Battalion,1st Marine Regiment,Marine Rotational Force-Darwin recently concluded Exercise Koolendong 16 in Australia's Northern Territory along with small contingents of their Australian and French allies.The two-week drills included live fire events;close air support;and capstone defensive live fire under chemical,biological,radiological and nuclear conditions,firing downrange while wearing protective suits and conducting a decontamination,representing an extremely austere geographical and warfighting environment.*
We are focusing on our core mission essential tasks,offense and defence,in a live fire environment and some of the harshest conditions,said Lieutenant Colonel Steven M. Sutey,company commander of MRF-D.*
HMLA-367 fulfilled the Air Combat Element of the exercise with their U1-1Y Huey helicopters.They executed several close air support evolutions;aerial command and control;armed reconnaissance;and forward air controller support for Marines on the ground.This provided MRF-D with full Marine Air-Ground Task Force assets.*
The closing drill of Koolendong 16 involved holding a battalion-size defensive position while working with the Air Combat Element for close air,and,in an extremely rare evolution,having to don gas masks as about 30 cans of CS gas were dropped into their fighting holes,adding a CBRN touch to the live fire environment,responding to CBRN conditions being one of these Marines' designated missions.*
Participating in Koolendong 16 were around 1300 US Marines and Sailors from MRF-D and 4th Marine Regiment Okinawa,Japan;100 Australian Defence Force troops from 8th/12th Australian Artillery Regiment,adding a capability the US Marines don't have in a MAGTF;and,in their first Exercise Koolagong,50 soldiers from the French Armed Forces New Caledonia infantry.