Australian Air Force, U.S. Marines work together to clear air
BRADSHAW FIELD TRAINING AREA, NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia – U.S. Marines and Royal Australian Air Force service members came together to ensure safe airspace during Exercise Koolendong 14 (KD-14) at Bradshaw Field Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia August 15.
KD-14 is a ground combat exercise consisting of approximately 1,500 U.S. Marines and Australian Defence service members working together in a variety of infantry training activities, helicopter assaults and ground live-fire ranges. The sixteen day exercise will conclude with a final capstone fire and maneuver evolution executed bilaterally with members of the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade involving infantry, helicopters, tanks, artillery and engineers.
“The Australians embedded with us are liaison officers and are coordinating airspace deconfliction with controllers monitoring aircraft movement during Pitch Black,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brandon J. Zettlemoyer, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native, and the Air Support Element staff non-commissioned officer in charge with Marine Air Support Squadron 2. Exercise Pitch Black is the Royal Australian Air Force’s largest and most complex air exercise. It will be held in the Northern Territory from 1-22 August 2014. “Air controllers coordinating Pitch Black aircraft movement contact our Australian liaison, who lets us know when we can push back to the ground elements so they can fire their mortars and other large-caliber weapons,” added Zettlemoyer.
“Exercise Koolendong is designed to improve both forces interoperability, and the capacity to effectively respond to regional crises and contingencies,” said Col. David Odom, commanding officer of 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “We are excited to work alongside, teach and learn from our Australian allies,” he added.
4th Marine Regiment, consisting of a ground combat element, combat logistics detachment and aviation combat element, is directing KD-14 as a headquarters in coordination with Australia Army’s 1 Brigade. The aviation combat element of KD-14 is tasked with working with RAAF liaison officers to safeguard the airspace during the exercise.
“With both large-scale exercises going on simultaneously, air-space deconfliction is a necessity for safety on all fronts.” Said Flight Lt. Gerard Bonaventura, a joint battlefield airspace controller assigned to the 44th Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force. “It’s great working with our American friends, and sharing our knowledge is invaluable training,” he added.
The focus of KD-14 is to establish a bilateral expeditionary command and control element between 4th Marine Regiment and Australia Army’s 1 Brigade in austere conditions, directing all maneuver elements in execution of the exercise. It is an infantry-centric exercise where it is necessary to coordinate with military aircraft flying in the vicinity of training.
“With aircraft flying overhead, and a variety of weapons being fired by the battalion out in the field, our job is to relay information between the ground and air combat elements,” said Captain Austin Majette, officer in charge of the Direct Air Support Control detachment assigned to 4th Marines. “It’s really been a great experience so far working with our Australian mates,” he added.
Exercise Koolendong runs throughout the month of August in Australia’s Northern Territory. The rotational deployment of U.S. Marines affords an unprecedented combined training opportunity with Australian allies, and improves interoperability between forces.