Thousands of US marines will begin arriving in the Northern Territory within days as part of an annual training rotation, the Department of Defence has confirmed.
About 2,200 marines will arrive in Darwin from the United States between now and June this year, arriving in batches of 200-500 marines.
The Department of Defence says each marine will have to do a coronavirus test within 72 hours of their departure and show a negative result before boarding the plane to Australia.
After they touch down in the Northern Territory, the marines will have to do another COVID-19 test and then undertake 14 days of quarantine. Before leaving quarantine, each person will be tested again for COVID-19.
To accommodate the large group, the Marine Rotational Force — Darwin (MRF-D) unit has rented a secure facility outside the NT capital for most of the US arrivals to quarantine in.
The first two groups, however, will quarantine in isolated accommodation on an unnamed Australian Defence base.
Earlier this year, the use of a Darwin CBD hotel as a quarantine facility for international military arrivals was the subject of significant criticism from health groups, including the Australian Medical Association and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the use of the leased facility and Defence base would ensure the marines’ arrival had no impact on repatriating Australians from overseas, which remained a key national priority for the Australian government.
Ms Reynolds said the rotation would build on the success of last year’s modified deployment.
In 2020, the annual rotation of marines was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, and a modified rotation of about 1,200 — roughly half the usual numbers — trained in the Northern Territory.
“The ability for this year’s MRF-D to go ahead under challenging global circumstances, is a testament to the endurance and adaptability of the Australia-US Alliance,” Ms Reynolds said.