GULF OF THAILAND - The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) concluded its participation in Exercise Cobra Gold 2018, Feb. 23, on the final day of the Indo-Pacific region’s largest multinational exercise.
As the 37th iteration of the exercise, CG18 focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Among participating nations were Indonesia, Japan, the Kingdom of Thailand, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United States.
As the only U.S. Navy ship to take part in CG18, Bonhomme Richard provided a spectrum of afloat capabilities and facilitated amphibious operations for the 3d Marine Division, including the launch and recovery of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft on the flight deck to sending out Marine personnel and equipment on amphibious assault vehicles and landing craft air cushions from the well deck. These ship-to-shore movements were fundamental in carrying out the field exercises of Cobra Gold, as were the operators and directors participating in each evolution in the well deck and on the flight deck.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our Sailors and their dedication throughout this exercise,” said Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “Their ability to conduct themselves with the highest level of professionalism and work together with our Marines and our Indo-Pacific allies shows just how versatile Bonhomme Richard is as a warship in the 7th Fleet.”
Prior to the commencement of CG18, Bonhomme Richard’s flight deck was carrying AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Hueys, assigned to the “Gunfighters” of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369, as well as CH-53E Super Stallions, assigned to the "Wolfpack" of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466. These aircraft embarked in order to support the different tasks Cobra Gold.
“This exercise was a bit different because we worked more with the Vipers and Hueys,” said flight deck landing signalman Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Tiffanie Allenderriley, from Joplin, Mo.. “We normally operate with [MV-22B] Ospreys, but it was a great experience working with the new squadrons.”
While Air Department safely executed the movement and handling of aircraft onboard throughout CG18, Deck Department became more familiar with amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), assigned to the embarked 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. To supplement vehicle and personnel transfers, the well deck personnel also embarked landing craft air cushions (LCAC), assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7.
“Most of our Sailors are new and have never participated in an evolution involving AAVs,” said leading petty officer of the well deck’s 2nd Division, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Brittany Parker, from Carthage, Texas. “So we did multiple trainings in preparation for Cobra Gold, and we made sure everyone was well-trained and comfortable as [well deck] traffic controlmen.”
In support of Exercise Cobra Gold’s aim to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crisis, Bonhomme Richard worked alongside the Royal Thai Navy landing platform dock ship HTMS Angthong (LPD 791) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) amphibious landing ship ROKS Cheon Ja Bong (LST-687) during amphibious assault raids and cross-decking evolutions.
“It’s always exciting to work with another country,” said Allenderriley, who directed a Royal Thai Navy S-70B Sea Hawk helicopter for a successful landing and takeoff from the Bonhomme Richard’s flight deck. “Knowing we can safely bring another country’s aircraft onto our ship and we can send our aircraft to theirs shows how effective we can be as allies. There’s a level of professionalism and camaraderie we share when working with other countries.”
As part of a day focused on shipboard interoperability, Deck Department also proved fully capable of recovering an ROK landing craft, mechanized (LCM), similar to the Navy’s landing craft utility (LCU), which transited from Cheon Ja Bong to the well deck of Bonhomme Richard.
“All of our personnel practiced their line handling and were advised on the line sequence and where each Sailor would be placed for receiving the craft,” said Parker. “There was a slight language barrier, but overall Deck kept their wits about them and we safely recovered and launched their LCM from our well deck.”
Additionally, Parker accredited Bonhomme Richard’s successful well deck launch and recovery operations throughout CG18 to her Sailors’ continual commitment to training and precision.
The performance of Bonhomme Richard Sailors, whether specialized in surface or air, demonstrated cooperation, interoperability and collaboration between the Navy-Marine Corps team and among the regional partner nations participating in Cobra Gold.
Bonhomme Richard is on regularly scheduled patrol in the Indo-Pacific region supporting security and stability in the region.