'OORAH' DOWN UNDER
Dangers abound when training among the slithering, scaled and 8-legged
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 15, 2013
DARWIN, Australia — Some Marines deployed to Australia’s Northern Territory might think they can make friends with the local wildlife. But it’s best if they don’t try.
Rarely does a day go by when the local newspaper, The Northern Territory News, goes without a front page photograph or story about a dangerous crocodile, shark or snake on the loose near a popular swimming hole, beach or picnic area.
Australia’s north is home to some of the world’s most dangerous animals, including saltwater crocodiles, box jellyfish, great white sharks, venomous spiders and snakes and even deadly octopuses.
One of the Marines — Staff Sgt. Dan Hubbert, 27, of Philpsport, N.Y. — said he’s seen plenty of snakes and spiders during training events in the outback. He recently spotted a deadly eastern brown snake, he said.
“Right before we started this exercise it was reported that a [6 foot, 6 inch] croc was seen in one of the creeks we were about to cross,” he said at Mount Bundey Training Area last month.
Lance Cpl. Chance Voth, 23, of McKinney, Texas, said he found a large red and black spider in his shower at Robertson Barracks, an Australian Army base that the Marines are working out of near Darwin.
“We were running around like school girls trying to kill it,” he said.
Another animal that regularly makes headlines in the Northern Territory is the Cane Toad. Regarded as pests, the toads are toxic to other animals and excrete a psychoactive substance from their skin. Recreational drug users have been known to lick the toads in an effort to get high.
The threat of wildlife is a risk that people in the Northern Territory factor into daily life. But it’s also a tourist draw. Marines can check out a menagerie of native animals including dozens of large crocodiles at Crocodylus Park — a zoo about 10 minutes from Robertson Barracks.
Not all of the indigenous animals encountered by U.S. forces in Australia are deadly.
Hubbert said one of the Marines in his platoon was startled during the Mount Bundey Training when a wallaby jumped onto the trail in front of him.
And Marine Lance Cpl. Chad Warren, 27, of Harlem, N.Y., said he saw a kangaroo through night vision goggles during training at the aptly named Kangaroo Flats.