161003-N-TH560-548 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 3, 2016) The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Decatur (DDG 73) steam alongside amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of interoperability drills between the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAG SAG) and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). The drills are meant to enhance readiness of cruiser-destroyer ships to rapidly integrate with the amphibious task force to provide increased capability for amphibious operations in support of crisis response or disaster relief. Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the South China Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeanette Mullinax/Released)
Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and Pacific Surface Action Group Link Up in South China Sea

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group joined two guided-missile destroyers from the Pacific Surface Action Group for a series of interoperability drills in international waters, Oct. 3-4.

The BHR ESG employed the capabilities of USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Decatur (DDG 73) to practice defense in depth of the amphibious ships including anti-submarine warfare and air defense scenarios and live-fire events with embarked helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“As I said in April when the PACSAG deployed, this type of training with the BHR ESG will pave the way for the inaugural deployment of an ESG embarked with joint strike fighters (F35B) and escorted by a SAG like this one, which I call an up-gunned ESG,” said Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Being able to concentrate and disperse all of that capability based on the situation will provide commanders with tremendous operational flexibility.”

The BHR ESG, commanded by Expeditionary Strike Group 7, consists of amphibious ships included in a traditional amphibious ready group along with the staff structure to deploy with surface ships, expanding the mission sets and survivability of the ESG.

The PAC SAG deployed in April as part of a three-ship group consisting of Spruance, Decatur, USS Momsen (DDG 92) and embarked helicopter detachments of HSM 49 to conduct maritime security operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater. While Spruance and Decatur conduct routine patrols in the Western Pacific, Momsen is conducting an Oceania Maritime Security Initiate (OMSI) mission.

Under the operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet, the PAC SAG is commanded by Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 31, assumed the role of sea combat commander during the time the two groups operated together. As sea combat commander, CDS 31 managed the maneuvering of all ships and oversaw execution of planned drills.

"Integrating with the ships of the BHR ESG and associated staffs has been a great experience for us as we wind up the PAC SAG’s deployment in the Western Pacific," said Capt. Charles Johnson, commander, CDS 31. "As we operate in the South China Sea, building on the work the ESG and SAG have accomplished, it demonstrates the flexibility of our Navy to operate forward and bring the right capability to the arena."

The BHR ESG is currently on a routine patrol in U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the region. The BHR ESG is commanded by Rear Adm. Marc Dalton and the ESG 7 staff, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa.

BHR ESG units include flagship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Germantown (LSD 42), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 31st MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/4, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 Reinforced.

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