Exercise in Australia gets unit's motor(cycle)s running
September 23, 2003
Lance Cpl. Mike Nolan says he’s having more fun than a Marine should be allowed to have during the Crocodile ’03 military exercise in northern Australia.
Nolan is a scout motorcycle messenger for the 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. His unit is part of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, some 2,700 U.S. Marines and sailors doing military maneuvers with Australian armed forces in Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
“It’s gotta be the most fun job in the Marine Corps,” Nolan said during a rare break in the action, according to a Marine Corps press release. The messengers, mounted on customized Kawasaki 650cc motorcycles, relay messages, deliver equipment and obtain information on the battlefield.
And, Nolan said, they have the time of their lives.
“People come up to us all the time and ask us” about their jobs, Nolan said. “We just tell them the truth — we love to work.”
The two motorcycle messengers with Nolan’s unit are in constant motion, speeding among command positions and other key areas, the news release stated. The bikes are well suited to northern Australia’s rough terrain.
But Nolan said the messengers are careful not to lose track of what they’re doing or to try to copy professional endurance desert racers, who whip along at speeds exceeding 100 mph.
“The bike could probably go that fast if I really opened her up,” he said. “We’re really not allowed to do that though, because if you go down out there and hurt yourself, you’re riding all alone and it could be a while before someone finds you.”
Nolan said he joined the Marines hoping to become a scout messenger and jumped at the chance to go through the two-week training course offered in Hawaii when a position became open.
“I just love to ride,” he said. “I honestly can’t think of a better way to spend an enlistment.”
During the second week of Crocodile ’03, Australian army soldiers confronted U.S. Marines in a mock battle involving armored vehicles, tanks and attack helicopters. The exercise, which focuses on air, land, maritime and amphibious operations, will last through Thursday.
Besides providing motorcycle messengers such as Nolan with an opportunity to rev it up along the battlefront, reconnaissance Marines are refining their skills behind the lines.
During part of the simulated battle scenario, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion members were inserted behind “enemy” lines to give the 3rd MEB information that helped shape the battlefield, according to Marine Corps Public Affairs.
Northern Australia’s terrain offers a challenge for the Okinawa-based Marines.
“In different environments you use different tactics,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Crawford, a platoon sergeant. “By being in Australia, our Marines are learning there is more than just the jungle.”
The exercise also lets the recon Marines train against a highly skilled military force.
“I’d rather go against a highly disciplined force like the Australians, because if it’s not a challenge then we’re not getting anything out of it,” Crawford said. “We’ve been looking forward to this exercise for months.”
As have the self-described “ground-pounding, mortar-toting” Marines of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, based out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.
According to Marine Corps Public Affairs, the company went through heavy training for two months in Hawaii to get ready for Crocodile ’03, practicing to set up 81 mm mortar “gun lines” and defend themselves against enemy riflemen if they get too close to their position.
They are aware the Australians are familiar with the terrain and have trained just as hard to prepare for the exercise.
“We think we have a good chance against the Aussies,” said Cpl. Justin Haskins, a squad leader. “As leaders, we’re ensuring our troops are learning their job, studying their knowledge and becoming familiar with all the parts and functions” of the 81 mm mortar.