WHITE BEACH, Okinawa – The Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) departed White Beach, Okinawa, Jan. 30.
This marks the completion of the embarkation of Marines assigned to 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and Marines from the 31st MEU will take part in an amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercise (CERTEX), participate in the annual multi-national combined joint training exercise Cobra Gold, and conduct various other exercises.
“The integration of our Navy-Marine Corps team that will be provided by AIT and CERTEX is an invaluable tool,” said 31st MEU Command Sgt. Maj. Gonzalo Vasquez. “The training evolutions we conduct during exercises like these are what keep us the most efficient amphibious fighting force in the Asia-Pacific region.”
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.
Cobra Gold is an annual U. S. and Kingdom of Thailand sponsored joint, multi-national exercise intended to demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy a joint task, force to conduct combined operations at sea and ashore.
White Beach was the first stop in the Bonhomme Richard’s deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations. The ship will now move forward into the training portion of her underway.
“There is a great challenge ahead of us,” said Capt. Daniel Dusek, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “Conducting multiple evolutions in a joint environment is a difficult, but necessary exercise,” said Dusek. “Although many of our younger Sailors have not had the chance to integrate with the 31st MEU, we have a history of a great working relationship and I’m looking forward to ensuring that tradition continues.”
The Bonhomme Richard ARG is made up of the Bonhomme Richard, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and reports to Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.