An island of fighting in the Centralian desert
EXERCISE Koolendong might have been set in a desert but for two weeks Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA) was transformed into a fictional island.
Working together, US Marines and Australian Defence Force soldiers ate, slept and trained amongst the bulldust for a fortnight.
The Brigade Major of the 1st Brigade, Major Jake Penley, said the Bradshaw training area had become an “island” that troops had to protect from a fictitious enemy.
“We’ve held the island of Bradshaw where we’ve moved to assist the Indigenous forces and local population to remove that enemy force from their island,” Major Penley said.
The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) – affectionately called Murph-D by ADF soldiers and US Marines – have spent the last six months training to respond to crisis situations in the region.
Brigadier Ashley Collingburn, the commanding officer of the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade, said Exercise Koolendong was part of a series of important training exercises.
“Starting with humanitarian assistance disaster relief, going through stability operations and then the big culminating activity,” Brigadier Collingburn said.
Exercise Koolendong was developed collaboratively by MRF-D and the ADF to reflect the combined force ability to plan and execute complex large-scale activities.
BFTA is located over an area of about 900,000ha and is one of the largest live-fire weapons training areas in the world. “This is truly an expeditionary operating environment,” Brigadier Collingburn said. “It tests our logistics,
tests our communications, to another level.”
Showing the strength of the US and Australian alliance, Exercise Koolendong involved about 2000 US marines and ADF soldiers as it ran from August 15-31.
It is one of the largest and most complex live-fire activities Australia conducts with the US each year.
Overall, Exercise Koolendong has had another successful six-month rotation and preparations are now under way for the next rotation of US soldiers, Major Penley said. “It has been fantastic,” he said.