CELBES SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) , comprised of USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) conduct both a fast attack craft/fast in-shore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) exercise, as well as an air defense exercise (ADEX).
Both exercises test the strike group’s ability to work together using command and control to identify and defend against small fast surface vessels and to stop a threat from the air.
“The opportunity to train with an air-defense platform like the guided missile destroyer is invaluable,” said Ens. Rob Prine, air defense command and liaison officer to Bonhomme Richard, “The Preble’s Aegis weapons system and tactical data link capability increases the ESG’s over the horizon capability and brings highly experienced air defense watch standers to the team.”
Bonhomme Richard launched harriers to simulate adversary aircraft. By incorporating live aircraft into the tactical picture the strike group received the most realistic training possible. Experienced operations specialists from Preble were also sent out among the ships to provide experienced instruction.
“The ADEX was a valuable opportunity to knock the rust off,” said Capt. Kristy McCallum, commanding officer Green Bay. “And to ensure the experienced watch standers are training and integrating the next generation of warfighters.”
Additionally, Bonhomme Richard used organic landing craft air cushion (LCAC) vehicles to simulate fast boats maneuvering around the ESG.
“The key to countering any threat, especially one as diverse and agile as FAC/FIAC, is early detection and communication and neither is easy in an area as diverse as 7th Fleet,” said McCallum, “As such, we train and certify to counter small boat and missile boat attacks, so the Sailors and their equipment have to be prepared and ready.”
Through the two exercises these ships learn to integrate and communicate in two critical mission areas.
“We have honed our ability to identify, track, engage and maneuver around small craft contacts and as a result strengthened our ability to defend the ESG,” said Lt. Matthew Huber, Fire Control Officer on USS Preble.
Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.