SASEBO, Japan - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) returned to Sasebo, Japan October 1 after completing a three-and-a-half month deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
Bonhomme Richard Sailors, along with the embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), participated in two exercises and steamed more than 10,000 nautical miles, since leaving Sasebo June 15.
The first of two exercises was Talisman Saber 2013, a biennial exercise that enhances multilateral collaboration between U.S. and Australian forces for future combined operations, humanitarian assistance and natural disaster response. The exercise, which concluded August 5, was designed to improve Australian Defence Force (ADF) and U.S. combat readiness and interoperability as a Combined Joint Task Force.
Over 8,000 U.S. military personnel from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps trained and worked together with members from the Royal Australian Navy to accomplish the mission.
The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of Bonhomme Richard, the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ships USS Germantown (LSD 42) and the forward- deployed amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9) worked closely with the 31st MEU, Naval Beach Unit 7 and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 to provide support on air, land, and sea for the exercise.
Marines from the 31st MEU had the opportunity to participate alongside joint and multinational service members in a variety of training exercises including an amphibious assault, a small boat raid, and a non-combatant evacuation operation.
“The Marines and Sailors were exposed to new environmental challenges that are unique to training here in Australia,” said Marine Col. John Merna, commanding officer, 31st MEU. “The massive scale of this exercise prepared us to operate as maritime contingency force for a wide range of missions in this region.”
Bonhomme Richard then began steaming north toward Darwin, Australia to participate in Exercise Koolendong 2013 (EK 13). EK 13 is designed as a “proof of concept” to assess the capacity of the Bradshaw Field Training Area in the Northern Territory to accommodate live-fire training for battalion-sized units of approximately 1,000 personnel.
This underway also marked the first time the MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced), deployed with Bonhomme Richard. The Mv-22 Osprey is designed as the medium-lift replacement for the Marine Corps’ CH-46E Sea Knight assault support helicopter and is a vast upgrade to the CH-CH46E.
Throughout the course of the underway, many Sailors took advantage of their time at sea by earning their enlisted surface warfare, enlisted aviation warfare, and information dominance warfare qualifications. More than 200 Sailors earned the right to wear their pins.
The patrol also provided many seasoned Sailors with the opportunity to further learn their rate and expand their naval knowledge.
“The challenges of this deployment were definitely an excellent learning opportunity for me,” said Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Travis Allen, the ship’s “oil king.” “Overall, I’m really happy with how this deployment went and I can’t wait to get underway again.”
Capt. Daniel Dusek, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer, said this deployment was a sterling example of what the crew is capable of when faced with a tough work scheduled and multiple challenges.
“Bonhomme Richard displayed unparalleled flexibility and dedication to duty the past four months,” said Dusek. “Their commitment to excellence was a major reason why operations conducted with our Australian brothers and sisters were a major success.”
Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only continuously forward-deployed amphibious ready group.