More than a thousand US Marines arriving in Darwin will be the cammo-clad beaus of the ball for the next six months as they drop a cool $5 million into the Northern Territory’s coffers and undertake a charm offensive with locals.
But lest the magic wear off too soon, they’ll disappear back into their barracks at midnight every night, just like a regiment of well-muscled, buzz-cut Cinderellas.
It’s that time of year again: the third annual rotation of US Marines is arriving in Darwin, representing its largest force yet in the Northern Territory.
The 1150 members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California will form the basis of the six-month rotational force.
“This is a great day for the alliance,” US Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Puglisi told reporters in Darwin on Wednesday.
The advance preparation has begun, and the main body of troops will arrive in three waves of 300 next week.
This year’s rotational force will be comprised of command, ground combat, aviation combat, and logistics combat elements, and is almost five times bigger than last year’s rotation of 250.
This number is expected to double again to 2500 Marines by 2017, under a commitment made by US President Barack Obama and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011.
The Marines will have an aggressive training schedule over the next six months, Lt Col Puglisi said, which will include two companies travelling to Townsville to participate in the bilateral Exercise Hamel, which will help troops hone their fighting skills and prepare for future operations.
They will also go to the NT’s Bradshaw field training area in August, will have a regional engagement with New Zealand and there are plans to send a company to southeast Asia.
While NT Chief Minister Adam Giles says the Marine presence represents global security based in northern Australia, he also welcomed the $5.1 million boost they give to the NT GDP, or about $5000 per Marine.
But those Marines who spend their cash in town will have a midnight curfew, public affairs officer Lieutenant Savannah Moyer said.
“The joke is that there is a Cinderella curfew,” she told AAP.
“Liberty is a privilege, it’s not a right in the Marine Corps, so we have to ensure that Marines are on their best behaviour, upholding the highest standards of personal and professional conduct, and we will ensure they’ll have fun in town, but will be home by midnight,” she told AAP.
A Marine from last year’s rotation was charged with rape in September, and will face court in Darwin in May.
When asked whether that had negatively impacted the bilateral relationship, Lt Moyer said: “That individual is not a Marine or connected whatsoever with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin.”