ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TOWNSVILLE, Australia --
Japan-based Marine units and Australian forces have been participating in exercise Southern Frontier 2011 over the last several weeks.
Southern Frontier is an annual bilateral exercise designed to test and refine the Marine aerial units’ ability to provide close air support to integrated American and Australian ground units.
Japan-based Marine units participating in this year’s Southern Frontier include assets from Marine Aircraft Group 12 Headquarters, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Wing Communication Squadron 18, Marine Air Control Squadron 4 and 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company.
Lt. Col. Waylan Cain, VMFA- 314 commanding officer, said Southern Frontier provides participating squadrons an opportunity to focus on training they were unable to conduct in their previous exercise.
The Marine units here rolled into Southern Frontier after having taken part in exercise Talisman Sabre 2011, which ended July 29. Talisman Sabre was a biennial large scale exercise meant to test and improve the Australian and American forces ability to conduct joint and combined task force operations.
Unlike Talisman Sabre, where the Marine units were given the opportunity to work with Australian counterparts and other American military forces, Southern Frontier provides Marines here the opportunity to conduct more unit-level training among themselves and with their Australian allies.
More than 400 Marines and sailors are participating in this year’s Southern Frontier, which has more than 10 F/A-18 Hornets here in support of the exercise. The F/A-18s are scheduled to fly toward the Highrange Townsville Field Training Area where the majority of the ground scenarios are due to take place and where they will be working with live ordnance.
During Southern Frontier, the units participated in scenarios, have cultivated their abilities in air interdiction strikes, armed reconnaissance support and strike coordination in reconnaissance missions.
“We are adding those extra missions in to make sure we get a well-rounded training evolution here in Southern Frontier,” said Cain.
Members of the Australian 4th Field Regiment are also participating in this year’s exercise to provide artillery support during joint, livefire training scenarios.
“It’s going to be a high operations tempo,” said Maj. Michael Lepore, VMFA-314 operations officer. “We are going to conduct a lot of live ordnance training and we are going to be able to build those (tactics, techniques and procedures) and relationships that we will carry into the future.”
Lepore said working with the Australians during Talisman Sabre has been great, and he expects things will continue to go well during Southern Frontier.
Aside from the military training scenarios, Marines and sailors here are also scheduled to participate in various community relations projects in support of exercise Southern Frontier. Cmdr. Dean Hoelz, MAG-12 group chaplain, is in charge of scheduling the various community relation projects.
“Our military mission makes an impact in one area with our allies and host nation but these (community relations projects) are a great opportunity to make an impact with something that doesn’t have to do with combat arms,” said Hoelz. “We are out helping the community by doing projects that help to revitalize the community.”
Some of the volunteer projects include clean-ups and re-vegetation work at local parks, gardens and animal sanctuaries that house koalas, kangaroos and crocodiles.
“These projects put an up-close face of the Marine Corps in the public sector more so than combat arms does,” said Hoelz. “The people who are going to see us here (on base) are just the military personnel but if we go out in the community, they are seeing our uniform, they are seeing our faces and they have the chance to interact and talk with Marines, and they get to know what we are like.”
Southern Frontier ended Monday.