NORHTERN TERRITORY, Australia --
Exercise Talisman Sabre is
a biennial, multinational, exercise designed to enhance bilateral collaboration
in support of future combined operations, natural disasters and humanitarian
emergency response. This year, the exercise featured approximately 33,000
troops, 200 aircraft and 21 ships.
The environmental impact that exercises like Talisman
Saber have is an issue that warrants attention and expertise. This year, Marine
Forces Reserve helped provide that expertise.
A detachment of Marines from MARFORRES
combined with an Australian Army environmental team helped to ensure that the
necessary safety steps were taken during the exercise to protect the Australian
continent from possible pollutants.
The MARFORRES detachment was from the Environmental
Service Division, a unit of Reserve Marines who provide environmental and
safety expertise, hazardous materials and safety management, and incident
command liaison to the commander in support of operations and major training
“The team of 30 worked at a number of different locations
across the continent in support of Talisman Saber,” said Maj. Glenn Davis, environmental
operations officer, MARFORRES. “They worked with the Australian forces for
military equipment preclearance. We also had Marines on a number of ships
inspecting departing and arriving aircraft for weeds and seeds, while the land-based
team mostly monitored the physical environment alongside the Australians.”
In the months of planning prior to the exercise, it became
apparent that the beaches selected for the exercise were used by sea turtles as
a nesting ground. With this information in hand, the environmental team began
taking steps to ensure the safety of the unborn turtles.
According to Dr. Michael Guinea, a marine biologist, the environmental
team had monitored the number of turtles nesting on the beach landing sites,
which involved doing a preliminary survey about seven weeks out from the
anticipated landing dates.
Once the surveys were complete, the locations were marked
and protected during a brief time for incubation.
“When we have identified a nest and allowed it to
incubate for at least 14 days, we can uncover the nest by looking at the tracks
and finding out where the eggs were deposited, excavating the nest, marking
them, and relocating them to a safe location,” said Guinea.
After the eggs were excavated, they were moved to a
different location far enough from the landing locations to be safe.
“The scale of Talisman Saber brings it to a higher level
of fidelity for environmental management,” said Australian Army Lt. Col. Pevlin
Price, Environmental Management Group deputy chief. “We have developed and
implemented arrangements so that we can meet our obligations back to the
federal department of the environment. Working with the departments from the
Northern Territory government, the local indigenous stake holders, and various
defense organizations has enabled us to bring this very complex activity to the
point we have.”
The relocation of the eggs is just one of many
environmental protection efforts accomplished by the military. With each new
exercise and operation come different environmental issues that could arise and
well-trained teams are always close by to provide solutions.