Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obama Announces Expanded U.S. Military Presence in Australia

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2011 – President Barack Obama joined Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today to announce expanded military-to-military relationships between the two countries as they commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Australia-New Zealand-U.S. alliance.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Australian capital of Canberra, the leaders announced closer collaboration between the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force and the Australian Defense Force.

Beginning in mid-2012, company-size rotations of 200 to 250 Marines will begin deploying near Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory for six-month rotations. Gillard said the presence will expand to a force of 2,500 over the next several years.

“As of today’s deal, U.S. Marines will be for the first time conducting exercises by themselves on Australian soil,” Obama said.

This rotational deployment is significant because it allows the United States and Australia to build capacity and cooperation, the president said.

“But it also allows us to meet the demands of a lot of partners in the region” in terms of training, exercises and “the presence that’s necessary to maintain the security architecture of the region,” he added.

Obama and Gillard also agreed to provide U.S. military aircraft greater access to Royal Australian Air Force facilities in northern Australia.

The expanded relationship will ensure “we’re going to be in a position to more effectively strengthen the security of both of our nations and this region,” Obama said.

It also will ensure an ability to respond faster to crises and provide humanitarian and disaster relief, he said. “This will allow us to be able to respond in a more timely fashion and also equip a lot of … smaller countries who may not have the same capacity,” he said. “It allows us to equip them so that they can respond more quickly as well.”

The expanded U.S.-Australia military relationship also “sends a clear message of our commitment to this region, a commitment that is enduring and unwavering” the president said.

“I am making it clear that the United States is stepping up its commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific [region],” the president said, thanking Australia for its leadership role in the region.

“As it has been for six decades” he continued, “our alliance is going to be indispensable to our shared future, the security we need and the prosperity that we seek, not only in this region, but around the world.”

The talks in Australia spanned a range of challenges that extend beyond the region, including the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, the president said.

“Obviously, this has not been an easy mission for either of our countries,” he said, expressing condolences for Australia’s fallen. “But we both understand what’s at stake -- what happens when al-Qaida has safe havens. We’ve seen the awful loss of life, from 9/11 to Bali.”

Obama cited progress in the transition process in Afghanistan as security responsibility is transferred to Afghan security forces.

“But it’s important that we do it right,” he said. “Given the enormous investment that’s been made and the signs that we can, in fact, leave behind a country that’s not perfect, but one that is more stable, more secure and does not provide safe haven for terrorists, it’s appropriate for us to finish the job and do it right.”

Motorcycle Safety Classes Begin at Seal Beach

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin, Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Public Affairs

SEAL BEACH, Calif. (NNS) -- Motorcycle riders stationed in and around Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach had the opportunity to sharpen their skills and learn from experienced riders during the command's first Motorcycle Safety Foundation Experienced Rider Course, Nov. 15.

Statistics released by the Naval Safety Center reveal that motorcycle fatalities in 2008 reflected a higher than expected percentage of Navy personnel. In 2009, motorcycle safety classes began to be offered to military and civilian cyclists. Since then, fatalities have declined due to this training.

"Our goal is to reduce motorcycle fatalities with the use of the training and initiatives that are in place," said James Olinger, Safety Installation Program director at the weapons station. "This course will be offered based on the customer's wants and needs. Once the word spreads of Seal Beach having a certified range, our courses may be provided on a weekly basis."

Although classes are held throughout the Southwest region, this is the first one held at Seal Beach, and is offered to all military and DoD civilian personnel and their dependants.

"We conduct all the different exercises to improve their skills such as stopping, going into a corner slowly before you enter, so they can be better riders on the road and avoid any risks that are out there" said Janet Buzan, a traffic safety instructor for Cape Fox Professional Services.

The basic and experienced rider courses are mandated by the Naval Safety Center for anyone riding a motorcycle on any military installation. Cyclists wishing to enroll should contact their departmental motorcycle safety representative or log on to the Enterprise Safety Application Management System (ESAMS).