Off load, show clear: Preparations continue for Marine deployment to Australia

An Australian government biosecurity inspector looks over shipping containers at East Wharf Port Darwin, in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia, April 19, 2020. The containers were part of a regularly scheduled supply replenishment for Marine Rotational Force - Darwin, and all underwent biosecurity inspections to protect Australia’s ecosystem. While MRF-D is on hold, supply shipments continue to ensure future rotations are supported. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Natalie Greenwood)

An advance party for Marine Rotational Force – Darwin continues to prepare for future deployments even as COVID-19 travel restrictions delay this year’s planned task force of 2,500 Marines.

A routine supply replenishment, which included necessary equipment to sustain future bilateral training between the Marine Corps and Australian Defence Forces arrived at East Wharf Port Darwin April 19. The Australian government approved the delivery, requiring strict adherence to health and force protection guidelines.

Marines and local contractors did not go onto the ship nor did they interact with the ship’s crew members. They also followed social distancing measures at the port, by leaving six feet of space between each other and not having big groups of people in once place.

“We have minimized the amount of people we have working out here,” Staff Sergeant Yudex Franceschi, the motor operations transport chief, explained. “In the past they had close to 100 Marines working, today we have a team of about eight.”

Lance Cpl. Samuel Pekula, a logistics clerk, is one of 54 Marines who arrived prior to Australian boarder closures on March 28. He said “it’s very important we adhere to all of our leadership’s guidance. When we fail to do so, we are not only putting ourselves at risk but our partner nation and its people.”

Humvees, seven tons, trailers, weapons, communication equipment, and other necessary gear was offloaded following these guidelines.

Biosecurity inspections are one way Australia reduces the risk of invasive pests or diseases arriving that could potentially damage crops and livestock as well as harm the unique environment, said Australian Warrant Officer Karen Windsor, a member of the Marine Corps Support Coordination Team in Darwin.

“Australia’s economy is based off tourists coming to see wildlife you don’t see anywhere else in the world. It is our job to protect the environment those animals live in and keep any harmful species out of Australia,” she said.

During the inspection, Australian biosecurity inspectors looked for any dirt, seeds, or insects on the gear.

“The environment of Australia is important to the Marines. We are guests here and we do not want to put the Australians at any sort of risk. We will continue to maintain a good relationship and put in those controls needed to protect Darwin and the people here,” stated Captain Brendan Mulcahy, the assistant logistics officer.

After passing the biosecurity inspection, the gear was moved to Robertson Barracks, where planning continues for future rotations.

Marines like Pekula, understand the importance of MRF-D’s delay, but maintain a commitment to readiness and the Australian alliance saying, “bottom line, we are still planning on everything. We will continuing working with the Australians to make it happen.”