INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) – After two weeks of dynamic maneuvering schemes and elevated command and control, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), flagship to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 commanded by Rear Admiral Hugh D. Wetherald Commander, completed Exercise Talisman Sabre July 18.
Bonhomme Richard, with USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Preble (DDG 88), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and counterparts from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) worked to make the biennial exercise a success.
“Talisman Sabre was an excellent opportunity to train to our core combat capabilities as an ESG,” said Wetherald. “Our ability to fight our way in to contested waters and defend ourselves in all areas of naval warfare while supporting amphibious operations ashore really demonstrates our effectiveness as a strike group.”
From the Northern Territory waters of the Indian Ocean to the North Australia Exercise Area, Bradshaw Field, Australia provided a unique setting for Australian and U.S. forces to increase the already-strong partnership between the two allies. It enabled the forces to accomplish missions across naval and land warfare.
The Strike Group performed more than 20 landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) and landing craft utility (LCU) ship-to-shore connections and more than 40 MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft flights from the Bonhomme Richard. In those craft more than 2 million pounds of equipment was moved from the sea based platform to the Bradshaw Field Training Area.
“You get a real sense of accomplishment when something of this magnitude comes together,” said Master Sgt. Agustin C. Pulido, Amphibious Squadron 11 combat cargo assistant. “You have the different branches of service working, safely and effectively, side-by-side with different countries.”
Pulido is a member of the combat cargo team. Their job is to determine which vehicles and personnel will move to the shore and how they will be arranged on ship-to-shore connectors like the LCAC and LCU. His team ensured the landing force had the right gear at the right time during the amphibious assault.
During Talisman Sabre the multifaceted training scenarios allowed the teams to practice integration.
Ashore, Marines alongside members of the 2nd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) who embarked on USS Green Bay (LPD 20) participated in the amphibious assault, July 11 and in the field they conducted live-fire training. 2RAR also had representatives with the ship’s coordination teams. This allowed service members from both countries to build a range of experience.
At sea, the Expeditionary Strike Group teamed up with Royal Australian Navy ships, HMAS Choules and HMAS Perth to conduct air, surface and sub-surface defense training allowing for a dynamic range of participant aircraft and ships.
As part of the military exchange, the Australian Navy brought depth in surface, sub-surface and command and control experience to the ships of the BHRESG. Conversely, the Australian Fleet Battle Staff members gained experience to take back their growing amphibious force.
“Were doing a certification on [HMAS] Canberra, there will be direct benefits of things we learn here take back into that command in October, November,” said Capt. Nick Woodley, Royal Australian Navy, who embarked on Bonhomme Richard as the Commander of the Fleet Battle Staff.
Collectively, the events built unity in Australian and U.S. forces and introduced challenges during intensive operations. Each event developed crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations. Units shared important skills and understanding necessary to prepare for real world events in the future that may require joint operations on land and at sea.
“It was a sincere pleasure to work with our partners of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army,” said Wetherald. “I was tremendously impressed by their professionalism and energy. I think our entire strike group learned a great deal and the experience has made us all more professional.”
Beyond different accents, U.S. Sailors learned the two Navies and cultures are more similar than different. The Bonhomme Richard ESG will leave Australia with not only invaluable military training, but many of the crew members will leave Australia with new friendships and a foundation of a partnership that is made of cooperation and trust.
This was the sixth iteration of the Talisman Sabre exercise. Talisman Sabre merges the previous exercises Tandem Thrust and Crocodile into one biennial, combined exercise with U.S. and Australian forces. Planning teams have already begun preparations for Talisman Sabre 2017.