Subscribe
Brig. Justin Kelly, facing, director general of Future Land Warfare for the Australian Army, talks with Brig. Gen. Richard Zilmer, director of Strategy and Plans for the U.S. Marine Corps, about the cementing of relationships between the two nations' services, during the first Staff Talks between the Marine Corps and Australian army.

Brig. Justin Kelly, facing, director general of Future Land Warfare for the Australian Army, talks with Brig. Gen. Richard Zilmer, director of Strategy and Plans for the U.S. Marine Corps, about the cementing of relationships between the two nations' services, during the first Staff Talks between the Marine Corps and Australian army. (Courtesy of USMC)

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Well, now they’re officially friends.

For at least 95 years, U.S. Marines and Australian soldiers have shared battlefields, but it was not until this week that they formalized the relationship in the first-ever Staff Talks, aimed at adding structure to the relationship, said Brig. Gen. Richard Zilmer, director of the Corps’ Strategy and Plans Division.

“The goal from a U.S. Marine Corps perspective was to gain a better understanding of the capabilities, the resources, and what the aspirations of the Australian army are,” Zilmer said. “There is clearly a long history of getting together on the battlefield, since 1908 I think was the first time … so there has always been this informal relationship with the Australian army, and what we seek to do here with these talks is to add formality.”

Most recently, Australia has deployed troops for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the two have worked closely in peacekeeping missions, notably the Australian-led Operation Stabilize in East Timor.

“The relationship is very warm and steady and cooperative and the purpose of these talks is to harness that warmth and cooperation,” said Brig. Justin Kelly, the director general of Future Land Warfare of the Australian army.

By far, the Australian army, some 20,000 soldiers strong, identifies more with the Marine Corps than with any other service, Kelly said. But one difference in the two that particularly captured the Australian’s interest is the Corps’ integration of ground elements and air power, all the way from the smaller Marine Expeditionary Units to the larger Marine Expeditionary Force.

While developing their own internal air capabilities won’t be feasible, army leaders want to tap the Corps’ procedures and bring that to the Australian Air Force to develop closer ties between the ground and air elements, Kelly said.

The talks in no way touched on permanent basing of Marines on Australia, a subject above Zilmer’s and Kelly’s pay grades, the men said.

This fall, the services will continue to strengthen the relationship with the kickoff of operation “Crocodile 03,” in which U.S. sailors and roughly 2,500 Marines from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, will join roughly 5,000 Australians for war games and sea trials, to include maritime interdiction operations aimed at ridding the seas of weapons of mass destruction.

This round of exercises has yet to begin, and they’ve already named the next round, to be called “Talisman Saber 05,” they said.

Future Staff Talks will be hosted alternately by the United States and Australia.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now