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US Marines passed time jumping rope, prepping for rotation during two-week quarantine Down Under

Marine 1st Lt. Kevin Heine of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, stands with an M777 howitzer in Darwin, Australia, after completing a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

BRIDGET GLYNN/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 10, 2020

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A group of Marines has emerged from a two-week quarantine in Darwin, Australia, with new jump-rope skills.

Fifty-four Marines, the advance party of what was to be a 2,500-strong summer rotational force Down Under, were placed in quarantine last month to guard against transmission of the coronavirus.

The Marine Corps postponed the rotation on March 30 following an order from Defense Secretary Mark Esper a week earlier barring nearly all official movement overseas for Defense Department personnel.

One of the Marines in Darwin, 1st Lt. Kevin Heine, 25, of Frederick, Md., said he and seven other members of Kilo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, learned they were headed for quarantine during the trip south from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.

“Before we left Twentynine Palms we got word there was a good chance [a quarantine] was going to happen,” he said.

The Marines, who took a commercial flight to Australia out of Los Angeles, were given masks and gloves when they landed at Darwin, then taken to nearby Robertson Barracks in official vehicles, Heine said.

The Marines did their quarantine in barracks rooms, each with its own bathroom, desk, couch and kitchenette, he added.

South African President Nelson Mandela shadow boxed and ran in place to keep fit during 18 years as a political prisoner on Robben Island. Heine and the other Marines in his unit worked out with jump ropes during their confinement.

“This probably forced me into the longest jump-rope sessions I’ve ever done,” he said, adding that one of his comrades can do some nifty tricks. “All eight of us could probably put on a show after two weeks.”

The Marines spent a lot of their time on the internet, Heine said. They also watched movies and read books.

“Most Marines passed the time talking to family back in the States,” he said. “I got work done.”

Heine is Kilo Battery’s executive officer and spent much of his time in quarantine planning and coordinating for the arrival of the rest of the force once the pandemic subsides.

“We were just setting conditions for what we would have to do when we got out of quarantine,” he said.

At the end of quarantine each Marine was checked by a corpsman who took their temperature and looked for signs of the virus.

Now they’re living in different barracks rooms and working in the motor pool with the gear that was shipped down to support the rotation. Kilo Battery fires several M777 155 mm towed howitzers.

1st Lt. Bridget Glynn, a public affairs officer with the Marines in Darwin, said the group is following guidelines that include social distancing and limiting groups to a maximum of two Marines.

The Marines can leave their base to shop for necessities, but Darwin’s beaches and bars are off limits, Glynn said.

“We are going to know to prepare for any possible future,” she said. “The Marine Corps is in consultation with the Australian government and preparing to conduct the deployment later in the year if the situation permits.”

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

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