US forces arrive Down Under for Talisman Sabre exercise

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From Stripes.com

US forces arrive Down Under for Talisman Sabre exercise

by: Seth Robson | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: June 26, 2015

Thousands of U.S. Marines and sailors have arrived in Australia to participate in Talisman Sabre 2015, a biennial military exercise involving 33,000 personnel from four nations.

Some 2,000 Marines and sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived Thursday in Fremantle, Australia, aboard ships from the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, said Staff Sgt. Zachary Dyer, 31st MEU public affairs chief. They join 6,000 sailors who made landfall last week aboard the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, according to Brisbane’s Courier-Mail newspaper.

“I don’t know a sailor in the fleet that doesn’t like to come to Australia,” Rear Adm. John Alexander, commander of the George Washington Carrier Strike Group, told a reporter after arriving in Brisbane.

The newspaper reported an enthusiastic reaction from locals hoping to show the Americans a good time Down Under.

A poll released last week by Australia’s Lowy Research Institute shows strong support for the U.S. alliance.

“A very substantial 80 percent of Australians see Australia’s alliance relationship with the United States as either very important or fairly important for Australia’s security,” the institute said on its website.

The changing power equation in the Pacific with a substantial rise in China’s capabilities and re-armament in Russia is playing on Australians’ minds, said Ross Babbage, a former Australian assistant defense secretary.

People in Asia welcome the U.S. military presence as a balancing force and trusted partner, he said.

“I expect even more support for the U.S. in a year to 18 months,” he said.

Talisman Sabre, which runs July 4-19 on land, sea and air, is designed to enhance bilateral collaboration in support of future combined operations, natural disasters and humanitarian emergency response, a Marine Corps statement said.

Talisman Sabre will mostly involve U.S. and Australia troops, but they will be joined by hundreds of personnel from New Zealand and Japan who are participating for the first time since the exercise began in 2005, according to a U.S. Pacific Command statement.

The strike group that arrived Thursday includes amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay and guided-missile destroyer USS Preble, the Marines statement said.

The Ashland will dock at Bunbury, Australia, and the other ships will dock at Fremantle, the statement said.

robson.seth@stripes.com

Twitter: @SethRobson1

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