Rockhampton RSL president Ron King stands with US Consul General Niels Marquardt after the laying of wreaths to commemorate the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Rockhampton RSL president Ron King stands with US Consul General Niels Marquardt after the laying of wreaths to commemorate the Battle of the Coral Sea. Allan Reinikka

Consul General awaits 25,000 troop visit

US CONSUL General Niels Marquardt hadn’t been to Rockhampton before, but wasted no time making new buddies yesterday.

Soon after touching down in the Beef Capital he was standing alongside war veterans and talking about the deep and lasting ties that bind America and Australia.

At the Frenchville Sports Club he laid a wreath at the memorial wall to mark the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.

It was a pivotal battle in World War II, he said, when the Japanese were poised to invade Port Moresby and establish a base within easy striking distance of Australia.

A few hours later, after acquainting himself with Mayor Brad Carter, he thanked Rockhampton in advance for the tremendous welcome he knew up to 25,000 US military personnel would receive during Talisman Saber 2011 in June and July.

“As long as we are welcome here, we’ll keep coming back,” he said, praising Shoalwater Bay as a unique location for military exercises.

“Talisman Saber is the biggest military exercise we conduct anywhere in the world,” he said.

He hinted this year’s exercise would be one of the biggest yet, with a giant aircraft carrier playing a part.

Mr Marquardt is based in Sydney and takes consular responsibility for about 150,000 Americans who live in Queensland.

He said there was no reason to suspect that the exercise would require stricter security because of the killing earlier this week of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

And he laughed off the threat by peace campaigner Bryan Law to damage US helicopters based at Rockhampton Airport.

“We are not concerned about safety and security here,” he said.



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