EAST CHINA SEA – Naval Beach Unit (NBU) Seven launched three landing craft air cushions (LCAC) from the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in preparation for a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) rehearsal Feb. 22.
NBU-7 collaborated with the Marines of the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to execute the NEO rehearsal. This exercise is one of the main events the Navy and Marine Corps team must complete during their certification exercise (CERTEX).
“The Marines do this exercise as an operational rehearsal to prove that we capable of carrying out this mission,” said Staff Sgt. Hughey Donald, Combat Cargo Assistant aboard Bonhomme Richard. “Navy personnel get to test their proficiency as well by coordinating the logistics behind transporting Marines and equipment to the beach.”
The primary mission of a NEO is to egress military and civilian personnel from hostile situations. The extraction rehearsals are intended to ensure that the teams are mission ready.
“NEO is an operation to help people in distress,” said Cpl. Justin Varga, a Marine assigned to Combat Cargo aboard Bonhomme Richard. “The Marines run NEO operations to protect lives.”
At first light, NBU-7 detached LCACs 08, 10, and 47 carrying 14 Marine Assault Vehicles and groups of Marine Combat Troops to the beach to conduct a simulated evacuation.
Once ashore, NBU-7’s Beach Party Team (BPT) assisted with offloading the gear and personnel to shore. To ensure the beach is suitable for LCAC operations, BPT established communication with BHR, checked surf conditions, set up landing aides and conducted a proper foreign-object-debris (FOD) walk down prior to the start of the evolution.
“It’s our job as an LCAC crew to get our assets whether civilian, military, or equipment to their destination as fast and as safe as possible,” said Quartermaster 1st Class Zacchaeus Miller, NBU-7 LCAC navigator. “It is an honor to work with these Sailors and Marines. We are proud to play such a vital role in the mission’s success.”
Evolutions like this proved to be beneficial not only from an operational standpoint but also in building team unity and strengthening partnerships.
“I have a deeper appreciation for all the integration that occurs to make an evolution like this happen with Navy and Marine Corps assets,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas McGriff, a Marine assigned to Combat Cargo. “Just working with the Marines and Sailors gives us a good sense of camaraderie. We’re all here to do a job and we’re a well oiled, war-fighting machine.”
Bonhomme Richard, the flag ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is comprised of amphibious dock landing ships USS Ashland (LSD 48) and USS Germantown (LSD 42). The Bonhomme Richard ARG is underway for a scheduled patrol of the Asia-Pacific Region.
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