US Marines did no ill, dropped lots of cash, Australians say
U.S. Marines with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, walk down the red carpet as they return to Hawaii from the inaugural unit deployment program to Darwin, Australia, Sept. 25, 2012.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
HONOLULU — About 200 Hawaii Marines who were the first to establish an ongoing Marine Corps presence in Australia had minimal or negligible social impact and contributed $1.8 million to the local economy, according to reports by the Australian government.
In other words, the Marines behaved themselves.
The Fox Company Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, returned to Hawaii in late September from the six-month deployment to Darwin, Australia.
"I acknowledge the professionalism and good conduct displayed by the first rotation of Marines," said Stephen Smith, Australia's minister of defense, in an Oct. 4 joint statement with Warren Snowdon, minister of defense, science and personnel.
A second deployment in March or April of about 250 Marines from a unit yet to be identified is expected to result in $2.3 million in expenditures in Australia's Northern Territory, the reports said.
The deployment Down Under was key as the United States seeks to establish a greater military presence in countries including Australia, Singapore and the Philippines.
"This first rotation of United States Marines has successfully completed a range of bilateral training with the Australian Defence Force in Australia, highlighting the capability and interoperability benefits the Australian Defence Force gains from such close interaction with the (Corps)," the Australians' Oct. 4 statement said.
An economic and social impact analyses of the Hawaii Marines' deployment accompanied the statement.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, told the Hawaii Marines during a visit in mid-July that they did "an absolutely superb job being the leading edge of the rotational force and paving the road for the future in Southeast Asia."
The Marine rifle company was the first to serve on the rotational deployments to Australia that were announced by President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November.
"As of today's deal, U.S. Marines will be for the first time conducting exercises by themselves on Australian soil," Obama said at the time. The leaders also agreed to increased rotations of U.S. Air Force aircraft through Australia.
The rotational Marine force — to be drawn from across the Corps — is expected to reach 2,500 personnel in years to come with the eventual arrival of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
An official at Marine Corps headquarters said the service is "still in planning" for follow-on units to go to Afghanistan, and that an announcement won't be made until early next year.
The reports on the first Marine Corps rotation reveal that Australia looked at risks including violence related to alcohol consumption and the possibility of sexual assaults.
The alcohol issue was rated as a "low" risk because of controls including a midnight curfew and requirement that Marines be with a "buddy" when off base on liberty. The risk of sexual assaults was rated as "moderate."
Australia also broke down the expected distribution of liberty expenses: alcohol, 23.3 percent; food and beverages, 17.6 percent; shopping, 16.1 percent; transportation, 9.7 percent; general activities and entertainment, 9.5 percent; adult entertainment, 8.8 percent; tobacco, 8 percent; and gambling, 6.9 percent.
Among concerns expressed by "stakeholders" in Australia about the new Marine Corps presence was the possible effect of "antagonizing major players in Southeast Asia, and whether the U.S. intent to increase its military presence in the region is in response to China's growing power," one of the reports said.
The Hawaii Marines arrived in Australia in early April and trained with counterparts from their host country; left in mid-May for exercises with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand; and returned to Australia in late June before returning to Hawaii late last month.