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Marine Awarded Australian Commendation Medal
by USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly - May 17, 2012

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MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (5/11/2012) – Maj. Michael Johannes, the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, was awarded the Australian Chief of Army Gold Commendation Medal at a ceremony here, May 9.

Brig. Paul Nothard (left), a general with the International Engagement Branch, Australian Army, congratulates and awards the Australian Chief of the Army Gold Commendation Medal to Maj. Michael Johannes, the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, during an awards ceremony here, May 9, 2012. Johannes received the highest level of the commendation for his work while serving as an individual augment in the Marine Corps Foreign Personnel Exchange Program to Australia. Johannes, from Keno, Ore., spent two years assigned to the Australian Army's Experimental and Research Section. Photo by USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Brig. Paul Nothard (left), a general with the International Engagement Branch, Australian Army, congratulates and awards the Australian Chief of the Army Gold Commendation Medal to Maj. Michael Johannes, the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, during an awards ceremony here, May 9, 2012. Johannes received the highest level of the commendation for his work while serving as an individual augment in the Marine Corps Foreign Personnel Exchange Program to Australia. Johannes, from Keno, Ore., spent two years assigned to the Australian Army's Experimental and Research Section. Photo by USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
 Brig. Paul Nothard, a general with the International Engagement Branch, Australian Army, presented the medal to the artillery officer for his accomplishments while serving as an individual augment in the Marine Corps Foreign Personnel Exchange Program to Australia.

The award is the highest of three levels of the commendation awarded to individuals by the chief of the Army. The billet is currently held by Lt. Gen. David Morrison who serves as the senior officer in the Australian Army.

“The Australian Army is a lot like the Marines,” said Nothard, who traveled half way across the world to present the award. “You've got to earn awards and medals. We don't just hand them out.”

Johannes, from Keno, Ore., spent two years in Australia assigned to the Australian Army's Experimental and Research Section. He was responsible for testing force structure plans for the coalition army and advising on ways
to improve the partnered force.

“It's unbelievable what they do with the limited number of resources and manpower that they have,” said Johannes, a 1995 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. “Their army is about an eighth the size of our Marine Corps. They are small, but for their size they pack a really good punch.”

His role in the exchange program allowed Johannes to be a subject matter expert in expeditionary warfare and enable the Australian Army to improve their capabilities.

“The Australian Army is going through a big transition right now, especially in their amphibious or expeditionary warfare capability,” said Johannes. “Being a Marine, we naturally know amphibious and expeditionary operations; I was able to help them a lot with that.”

The exchange program allows Marines and Australian Army personnel to train with the other's forces, gaining new perspective and giving insights from their own methods of conducting warfare.

“Anytime you are in an organization for a while you just start seeing things because that's the ways they have always been,” said Johannes. “Anyone coming in from an outside organization and taking a look at what they have is beneficial.”

Johannes was also able to see how another organization operated and learn from them before returning to the artillery community.

“They are really good planners, so I took away some of the ways they plan and their procedures for planning,” Johannes said.

In additions to lessons learned, he also took home a valuable experience.

“When you go over to [Afghanistan] you are going to operate with these guys,” said Johannes. “Having a shared experience is very important, and that exchange program allows us to do that.”

His hard work and contribution was recognized by those he had worked with and he was rewarded above his peers.

“Every exchange officer doesn't automatically get a Chief of the Army Commendation Medal,” said Nothard. “[Johannes] definitely earned that, so it's fantastic for me to be able to come over and present that in front of his battalion.”

“It's awesome. It's an unbelievable honor,” said Johannes. “It was great seeing Australian uniforms and hearing the accent again.”

Johannes will relinquish his position as the executive officer of 3/11 in the coming weeks to be posted as a senior adviser with a border adviser team.

More photos available below

By USMC Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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