Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) began Certification Exercise (CERTEX), Aug. 7.
CERTEX is an event focusing on the 31st MEU’s capability of doing missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or non-combatant evacuation operations with the ARG.
“Every MEU goes through a work up cycle prior to deployment which is usually conducted over months of training back in the states, and is culminated during their CERTEX before they deploy,” said Cmdr. Kirk Knox, Bonhomme Richards’ operations officer. “Even though the majority of the focus is on the MEU this is a team effort. The MEU cannot accomplish their tasks if we fail to provide them the support they need.”
Bonhomme Richard ARG is made up of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), which is the command ship for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, as well as the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) and amphibious transport dock USS Denver (LPD 9).
Bonhomme Richard provides a platform at sea enabling the MEU to carry out visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises and helicopter raids. The Marines of the MEU will also conduct a combat rubber raiding craft operations (CRRC) from the ship's well deck.
“We will launch, recover, and spot aircraft to support the 31st MEU during CERTEX,” said Lt. John Zahodne, Bonhomme Richards’ aircraft handler. “During this exercise we are required to operate at a higher operational tempo.”
During CERTEX, Royal Australian Regiment officers, who are from an exchange program to develop officers, will observe the evolutions. In 2014 Australia will receive and deploy two of their own amphibious assault ships.
“The exchange program allows us gain experience from the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy on how to conduct amphibious operations,” said Maj. Alexander Rubin, Royal Australian Regiment 2nd Battalion detachment officer-in-charge. “We are invigorating our amphibious capability. The idea is to get ahead of the curb in developing our own program. We are grateful for this opportunity and hope that during the next Talisman Saber we can perform amphibious operations side-by-side with Bonhomme Richard.”
The exercise will test the two forces’ ability to execute several evolutions including small boat operations, helicopter and amphibious operations, mass casualty response drills and a non-combatant evacuation operation. Each of these evolutions involves transporting equipment and personnel to designated locations.
“At the end of the day, we are ultimately responsible for the safe movement of the 31st MEU's vehicles and cargo to and from the battle space,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Alvarez, Bonhomme Richards’ 1st Lieutenant. “While on deployment the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) element of Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 integrates with Deck Department and Combat Cargo, as we share working spaces and combine our efforts to execute BHR's ship-to-shore mission.”
The U.S. and Australia have a long established bilateral partnership which is an essential part of maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. Navy also contributes to the freedom of navigation in the territorial waters and airspace of coastal nations, which supports economic development and international commerce.
Commander Amphibious Squadron ELEVEN, 31st MEU and Bonhomme Richard ARG report to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.