EAST CHINA SEA (NNS) -- Both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps share the same core values; honor, courage and commitment. On board the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), one might say the Sailors and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Marines used these guiding principles to complete the mission during amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercises (CERTEX), March 16-23.
AIT is the first and essential step toward preparing for CERTEX. It is designed to strengthen the bonds between the ships of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 31st MEU Marines through several exercises and scenarios.
"It's about team work," said Lt. Col. Timothy Brady, 31st MEU operations officer. "No one Sailor or Marine can do this alone. We get the opportunity to work alongside one another with unity of effort and unity of command to accomplish the mission."
AIT is composed of situational training exercises such as a vertical assault, small-boat raids, non-combatant evacuation operation, and a maritime interception operation.
"Simply put, the purpose of AIT is to build the proficiency of the Navy-Marine Corps team in amphibious operations." said Brady. "It exercises all of the MEU mission essential tasks from planning through execution."
One of the busiest and most visually powerful places used during these exercises is Bonhomme Richard's flight deck.
"Amphibious integration training ensures the Navy-Marine Corps team can utilize our assets to launch a multitude of missions," said Lt. Keith King, Bonhomme Richard's flight deck handler. "These exercises show how powerful our amphibious force can be and build trust amongst the blue-green team by allowing us to build continuity and capability."
One important aspect of integration training is increasing effective communication across the blue-green team.
"It strengthens our relationship in two ways," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Timothy Brunner, from Indianapolis, Indiana. "The first one being situational awareness. The unique exercises we perform make it very important to communicate closely with each other to remain safe. The second would be timing. These exercises are time-sensitive and can be given at random, which require us to work together and communicate in ways we may not in normal situations."
"This exercise is important for us because it is a key opportunity for all of the elements of the MEU to demonstrate proficiency with our CPR-11 and ship partners," said Col. Romin Dasmalchi, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. "The successful completion of CERTEX means that we are fully qualified to carry out the duties of a MEU Marine Air Ground Task Force in support of the Combatant Commander, and we are ready to execute any mission we are tasked with."
Working together proficiently and taking care of each other, these warriors of the sea, from enlisted to the top officer, believe they are ready for any challenge.
"All the Sailors from the flight deck to the medical team conduct themselves in a very professional manner," said Sgt. Jeffrey Blake, Marine Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 crew chief, from New Haven, Connecticut. "We always look forward to working with them hand in hand. It's amazing what the Navy and Marines can accomplish when we come together and work as a team to complete our common goals."
"If we receive the call, this team is ready to fight tonight." said Capt. Heidi Agle, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. "The teamwork, collaboration and flexibility our Sailors and Marines demonstrated during CERTEX were exceptional. We took full advantage of training and integration opportunities and this certification validated our readiness at every level. I am honored to be a member of the Forward Deployed Amphibious Force."
Bonhomme Richard, with embarked Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7, Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, Capt. Heidi Agle and their staff are on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations providing security and stability to the Asia-Pacific region.