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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Crocodile Dundee watch out: The Marines are returning to Northern Australia.

About 2,700 members of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade deployed to Shoalwater Bay Training Area to participate in Crocodile ’03, a joint U.S.-Australian military exercise held every two years near the city of Rockhampton.

There, they will train in the ground portion of the joint air, land, maritime and amphibious exercise.

Croc ’03 lasts through Sept. 25.

“The aim is to practice and evaluate a combined Australian and U.S. task force in planning and conduct of operations,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Plant of the Australian Army in a service newspaper. The exercise was two years in the planning.

The scenario involves responding to a crisis in the fictitious island nation of “Legais.”

“The operation includes the arrival and assembly of Marine forces via strategic airlift and surface shipping, a force-on-force exercise, live-fire training, and redeployment of Marine equipment and personnel to Okinawa and Hawaii,” Marine spokeswoman 1st Lt. Amy Malugani said.

The 3rd will serve as the Marine force component of the Australian-led Combined Task Force 628.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., brigade commander, will be the task force’s deputy commander.

In the training scenarios, “CTF 628 is tasked with providing military support to a beleaguered regional ally,” Malugani said. The 3rd MEB provides CTF 628 “a potent and responsive force capable of defeating troublesome insurgent forces.”

She said the brigade is “the tip of the spear” for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, with its lead elements capable of deploying within 24 hours to respond to any contingency in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the only permanently forward-deployed brigade-sized Marine air and ground task force.

Depending on the mission, the brigade is a force of 2,200 to 17,000 Marines capable of performing amphibious, maritime pre-positioned assaults or joint task force operations, Malugani said.

While Marines concentrate on ground actions, ships from Australia, the United States, Japan and France will participate in an exercise in the Coral Sea aimed at interdicting the sale and shipment of weapons of mass destruction from countries like North Korea to “rogue states,” officials said.

During the exercise, sailors will practice boarding vessels.

The drill is a result of the Proliferation Security Initiative established by the United States, Australia, Japan and eight European countries to prevent the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.


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