Camp Pendleton Marines headed to Australia

Amid the Marines, and their families and pets, on a Camp Pendleton parade deck washed clean by a morning rain, row upon row of gear and weapons. Destination for the gear and the men in camouflage? Australia, specifically the vast territory of northern Australia.

In late 2011, President Obama and then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced rotational deployments of marines, emphasizing the Pacific realm. In terms of global strategy, our forces are being positioned with the Pacific in mind.

“Australians have been our partners in every conflict since we started the campaign in 9/11,” said Lt. Col. and First Battalion Commanding Officer Kevin Matthews. “So there are a lot of combat veterans are out there and they do things a little bit differently than we do. We're going to learn from them. Obviously, we bring other expertise and various expeditionary operations in which we will partner with them. I really think that it's a mutually beneficial relationship.”

So far, the Australian partnership has been done with company-sized Marine units based in Hawaii. Now, the second phase involving a much larger force: some 1,100 from Camp Pendleton's First Battalion, part of the fifth marine regimen, 300 leaving Tuesday, another wave of 300 Wednesday, and another group Friday, for six months away from home working with the Australian army. Many in the group have participated in multinational exercises before on deployment to Okinawa, such as Lcpl. Mitchell Buzzard of the United States Marine Corps who worked with Thailand's marines.

“Taxing the weight is the biggest difference. Dealing with how someone will demount or how you attack a beach… just even the equipment itself.”

Buzzard grew up on a farm in southern Illinois; his dad flew out to see him off. 

“I'm proud of him,” said Dean Buzzard. “He's grew up a lot, I guess.”

Navy Corpsman HM3 Chad Clawson was found holding tight to his 8-month-old daughter Lila. 

“That's the hardest part about deployment, but when you come back, you come back to a beautiful family. So it's all worth it.”

3-year-old son Cash will be the man of the house for the next several months, but wife and mom Stephanie will have plenty of support from family.

“It's tough, but I kind of expected it when he first joined,” said Stephanie Clawson. “Our son was one (years old) when he joined, so we prepared ourselves and talked to our friends and family who were ready to help us out.”

The Marines have been training hard for the deployment, and now, it's off to the Outback.

Categories: KUSI