TOWNSVILLE, Australia --
As American and Australian military forces throughout Queensland, the Northern Territory, and neighboring naval areas prepared for Talisman Sabre 2011, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 Black Knights decided to thank the local people here for their hospitality during the Sucrogen Townsville 400 V-8 Supercars races hosted south of the Townsville Central Business District July 10.
This year’s Sucrogen Townsville 400 had 29 V-8 supercars racing through a 400-kilometer circuit course and ran from July 8-10.
This marked the third year the races came to Townsville.
Four VMFA-314 F/A-18 Hornets flew over the crowd of people in attendance after the last note of the Australian anthem played before the final race of the Townsville 400 kicked-off.
Maj. Brian Dennis, VMFA-314 operations officer, helped to coordinate the fly-over with the Townsville 400 operations manager.
“We heard about this race and we thought ‘hey, what a great opportunity for the Marine Corps and the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron to be involved with the community in this race’,” said Dennis.
“We just knew there had to be a way we could work together, do something with (the races) and be involved with the people of Townsville,” he said.
Dennis said he believes the flyover could not have gone better and helped to strengthen ties with the community.
The people in the stands stood and cheered as the roaring Black Knight F/A-18s soared overhead drowning out the revving racecars below.
Adele Henrichs, Sucrogen Townsville 400 operations manager, said it is unusual for military fighter jets to put on a show the way the Marines did.
“To actually have the U.S. Marine Corps here is massive,” said Henrichs. “Everyone has been absolutely looking forward to it. It’s just great.”
Henrichs coordinated the flyover with the Black Knights and said she hopes to keep in touch with the Marines to do something similar in the future.
Several of the locals were equally appreciative of the flyover and thanked the Marines walking around the race grounds. David Dollard, a local, was one of 150,000 people in attendance at the races.
Dollard said he has been an avid collector of U.S. Marine Corps memorabilia since he was a child and appreciated their show during the races and their participation in the Talisman Saber exercise.
“I love the fact that these guys are out here today doing what it is they are doing,” said Dollard. “I love the whole idea.”
Lt. Col. Brian Evans, VMFA- 314 executive officer, was one of the pilots who flew over the crowd during the race.
Evans said he was surprised to see a swarm of people lined up at the fence gate by the Royal Australian Air Force Base flightline just to watch the four F/A-18s take off. He said he believes the flyover would indirectly help build local support for Talisman Sabre.
“One of the goals and priorities of exercise Talisman Sabre is our exchange and relationship with the Aussies,” said Evans. “To actually provide a flyover for the local people to see the Americans are here and flying F/A-18s — it just fosters a good working relationship between the Marine Corps and the Aussies.”
Talisman Sabre is a biennial exercise designed to test and improve upon the Australian and American forces ability to conduct joint and combined task force operations.
Although there are many facets to the exercise, the Black Knights’ portion in this training is scheduled to involve mainly closeair- support for the Australian forces on the ground.
Talisman Sabre 2011 started July 11 and is scheduled to run until July 29.