EAST CHINA SEA - Sailors aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO) drill while underway off the coast of Okinawa, March 4.
NEO is a process for evacuating U.S. citizens, Department of Defense civilians, and designated host nation and third country nationals during a life-threatening emergency in a foreign country.
Bonhomme Richard and the 31st MEU train their personnel to conduct NEO operations should the need arise in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
Marines from the 31st MEU played the part of evacuees arriving onboard Bonhomme Richard. Bonhomme Richard's hangar bay was divided into separate stations to include in-processing, medical exams, supply pick-up and security checks.
"We are the first contact with the evacuees, so everything we do sets the tone for how things are going to operate," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Nathaniel Cable, a member of Bonhomme Richard's security team. "You never know what might happen because they just got taken from their home, a lot of things are happening on land, so their stress level is really high."
As evacuees were processed and screened, medical personnel were on hand to provide the evacuees with care and treatment and Sailors from supply department were on hand to provide food, water and blankets.
"We need this type of drill so that we will be ready and prepared to accept evacuees just in case something goes down in another country like a natural disaster," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Juliet Elangos, a Fleet Surgical Team 7 respiratory technician assigned to Bonhomme Richard. "We want to be ready. We're here to save lives."
The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is currently participating in amphibious integration training and is comprised of Bonhomme Richard, USS Ashland (LSD 48) and USS Denver (LPD 9).