WHITE BEACH, Okinawa -- The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) embarked Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Feb. 26 to participate in amphibious integration training (AIT) and a certification exercise (CERTEX).
The 31st MEU consists of ground command, air and combat support elements that allow the Bonhomme Richard ARG to conduct amphibious operations from the sea and project power ashore.
"The integration of our Navy-Marine Corps team is an invaluable tool," said the 31st MEU Commanding Officer Col. John E. Merna. "It's exercises like these that keep us the most efficient amphibious fighting force in the Asia-Pacific region."
During the onload, each ship's combat cargo department loaded vehicles and equipment from the MEU's battalion landing team, ground combat element, aviation combat element and combat logistics battalion. Most of the vehicles and equipment were transported to the ships by landing craft air cushion and landing craft utility boats from Naval Beach Unit 7.
"We require the full cooperation of every Sailor and Marine to make this exercise a success," said Capt. Heidi C. Agle, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. "It takes every individual to ensure the team operates safely and efficiently."
During the ARG's port visit to White Beach, officers and enlisted personnel of the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) were able to take tours of the ships. Maj. Gen. Goro Yuasa, director of Logistics, Ground Staff Office, JGSDF visited USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Rear Adm. Hiroshi Oka, commander of Mine Warfare Force, JMSDF, visited USS Ashland (LSD 48).
The Bonhomme Richard ARG during spring deployment consists of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard, amphibious dock landing ship Ashland, and amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9).
AIT and CERTEX are training exercises focusing on the ARG and the MEU's amphibious assault and humanitarian assistance capabilities, disaster relief operations and non-combatant evacuation missions.
"We executed the basics flawlessly, but, there is a great challenge ahead of us. Conducting multiple evolutions in a joint environment is a difficult, but necessary exercise," said Capt. Joey Tynch, Bonhomme Richard's commanding officer. "Our Sailors will have to learn to integrate with the 31st MEU, but we have worked together well before and I'm sure we'll see the relationship continue to flourish."
Bonhomme Richard ARG is assigned to Amphibious Force 7th Fleet and is conducting operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations.