USS Germantown arrives in Darwin, Australia
by MC3 Christopher Lindahl
DARWIN, Australia (NNS) -- Dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), arrived in Darwin, Australia, July 4, prior to scheduled operations in the region.
While in port, Germantown and the 31st MEU will conduct a bio-security inspection to ensure they are operating in an environmentally responsible manner and in full accordance with Australian laws.
The inspection is the second of a two-part inspection that entails full accountability for all food items, soil, bacteria, plant life and any other organisms that could damage the Australian ecosystem. The first part of the inspection took place in Okinawa, Japan prior to Germantown's departure.
"The majority of this equipment has been inspected already, a lot of it is already tagged, we have the documents and paperwork to support it," said Lt. Darrell Morgan, assigned to Naval Beach Unit Seven.
Morgan said the equipment to be inspected will include any Sailor and Marine personal effects as well as mission essential equipment such as rucksacks, three-day packs and odds and ends that will be taken out to the field.
"It's a beautiful country, a beautiful ecosystem, and we want to do our part to preserve their lands," said Cdr. Jason R. Leach, Germantown's commanding officer.
The inspection is a precursor to a complex training evolution that combines the Navy and Marine Corps maritime sea-to-shore capabilities with those of the Australian Navy; a relationship that serves as a cornerstone of regional stability.
While the visit to Darwin is considered a "working port" due to the bio-security inspection, Sailors and Marines will still have the opportunity to enjoy some personal time in town and a community service program with "Life Without Barriers," a national charitable organization for children and young people with disabilities.
"We obviously have a mission to accomplish, but we always emphasize to the Marines and Sailors the importance of interacting with people," said Lt. Kyu Lee, Navy chaplain assigned to the 31st MEU. "We want to provide an opportunity to see different perspectives in life."
Lee said through these opportunities people often realize future dreams. They may have never known that they have a gift working with the disabled, and it could lead to a great future, he said.
"We always think of community service programs as 'giving', but we actually gain a lot from these opportunities," said Lee.
Germantown is on patrol with the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, with the 31st MEU, is currently conducting routine joint-force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
The Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.