FORT BENNING, Ga. — The Maneuver Center of Excellence has made a permanent splash Down Under.
Lt. Col. Michael “Mick” Ahern recently became the first Australian liaison officer assigned to Fort Benning. The close U.S. ally already had soldiers serving at the Maneuver Captains Career Course, but he’ll act as the senior Australian Defence Force representative on post in a full range of official and community activities.
Ahern, who has a three-year assignment, arrived in late December from Sydney, where he was commander of the Australian Joint Proof and Experimental Unit. It’s a key weapons and explosives ordnance test and evaluation agency for the Australian army, navy and air force.
He said he’s taking a combined-arms approach to the role here and will work across the Armor and Infantry domains. In addition, he’ll coordinate with the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Okla.
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“The United States is Australia’s most important ally, and the U.S. Army is the benchmark for the Australian army,” he said. “The Australian army recognized the critical role that the U.S. Army’s MCoE plays in developing future maneuver concepts, equipment, doctrine, and importantly training the current and future U.S. Army maneuver forces. It saw establishing an LNO post at the MCoE as the way forward to develop collaboration opportunities between the U.S. and Australian armies on maneuver issues of mutual interest and benefit.”
Ahern has served in the Australian army since 1989 through a range of field artillery branch appointments. As a forward observer and forward air controller, he’s worked extensively with light infantry battalions and medium armor forces, helping direct joint fires in support of maneuver. He deployed to East Timor in 2000 with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.
Establishing relationships with MCoE staff members to strengthen U.S.-Australian ties will be a top priority — particularly in force and capability development, experimentation and exploring the benefits of new technologies to maneuver forces, he said.
“We already have Australians conduct training here at Fort Benning on occasions, but I am keen to identify additional training and exchange opportunities,” he said. “While our respective armies operate at different scales, we share many of the same challenges in preparing our soldiers for current and future combat operations. I believe that Australian army force and capability development activities can play a role in enhancing related MCoE activities.
“I am honored to be selected as the first Australian army liaison officer to the MCoE, and hope to build on what is already a strong bond between our respective armies.”
Ahern is accompanied by his wife, Taryn, and their three children: Sinead, 7, Niamh, 5, and 2-year-old Sean. The family resides on post.
On Wednesday, Mick and Taryn hosted an Australian Day celebration for senior Fort Benning leaders. In Australia, where it’s summer, the national holiday is typically marked by outdoor barbecues, concerts and parties.
Ahern expressed gratitude for the reception they’ve gotten and said more special events are likely throughout the year.
“Taryn and I look forward to getting to know as many people as possible over the next three years,” he said. “The hospitality that we have been extended has been nothing short of amazing, and we are most grateful. This has made the transition very smooth, and we look forward to repaying as much of this hospitality as possible during our time here in the U.S.”