A landing craft air cushion from Naval Beach Unit 7 approaches USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), July 23, as Marines return from training during Talisman Saber. (U.S. Navy/MC3 William Sykes)

BRISBANE, Australia - Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completed the biennial exercise Talisman Saber, re-embarking aboard the U.S. Navy ships of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group off the coast of Queensland, Australia, July 23-25.

The Marines and Sailors, along with their counterparts in the Australian Defence Forces, spent several weeks building bilateral capabilities and strengthening the U.S.-Australian defense posture while honing a long-lasting relationship between the two nations.

The exercise was a resounding success for the 31st MEU and the members of the Australian military, according to Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.

"Working with our allies and partners has been extremely rewarding. Talisman Saber offers a unique opportunity to increase our interoperability with the Australians," said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.

"It is exercises like Talisman Saber that enable the 31st MEU to be ready to respond to contingencies throughout the Pacific. We will remain forward, flexible and ready to face any crisis throughout the region, and are grateful for the opportunity to work with our close allies."

Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU, supported by the U.S. Navy Sailors of the BHR ESG, fanned out across the sprawling Australian Defence Force’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area on Australia’s east coast. During the exercise, Marines with the 31st MEU partnered with Australian Army, Air Force and Navy service members while ashore.

The thrust of the exercise included an amphibious assault on Shoalwater’s Freshwater Beach. Marines with Lima and India Companies, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, riding aboard Combat Rubber Raiding Craft and Assault Amphibious Vehicles, landed at Freshwater Beach to display the amphibious capabilities of the 31st MEU. Kilo Company, BLT 3/5’s vertical assault asset, patrolled ashore as battalion reserve before and during the assault.

Several miles off-shore, on the bombing range of Townshend Island, Marines with BLT 3/5 and Combat Logistics Battalion 31 refined precision fire capabilities for nearly two weeks. During the three-day long capstone event, a combined joint live-fire exercise, Marines with the 31st MEU, the U.S. Air Force, and Australian Navy, Army and Air Force fired more than 500 155-mm artillery shells and 120-mm and 81-mm mortar shells. The Australian Navy exhibited their naval surface fire support capabilities from several miles off-shore, targeting and hitting an area no larger than a standard football field.

The display of fire power took months of planning and coordination between both U.S. forces and their Australian counterparts. The accuracy of fire and paramount safety of the CJLFX proved the value of Talisman Saber for both the 31st MEU and the Australian forces, according to Capt. Nathan Jeffcoat, the CJLFX officer-in-charge and commanding officer of Weapons Company, BLT 3/5.

“Each participant in this exercise did phenomenally. From movement ashore, to setting up camp, to actually executing the CJLFX, everything was nearly perfect,” said Jeffcoat. “Safety is always a huge concern when live ammunition and ordnance are involved, and everything went off without any issues.”

The closing ceremonies for Talisman Saber 17 took place aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and featured both U.S. and Australian dignitaries. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, ported in Brisbane, hosted the ceremonies that officially ended Talisman Saber 17. The nearly month-long biennial exercise helped build the U.S.-Australian military partnership in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, a partnership lasting from before World War II, according to U.S. Navy Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“[There is] No better place to celebrate the success of Talisman Saber 17 than here aboard USS Ronald Reagan, the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed naval force and the descendant of those American carriers that fought alongside our Australian allies at Coral Sea more than 75-years ago. The crucible of Coral Sea is where our alliance was cast in iron and the Talisman Saber Exercise series shows in tangible, physical terms that our alliance continues to strengthen and deepen.

“The shared heritage of our American and Australian armed forces is based on the fierce fighting and hard-earned victories by those that came before us," Swift added. "Time has not diluted that shared heritage. It remains grounded upon our shared national character and values.”