Seaman Chrisitian Colon signals to an amphibious assault vehicle assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) enters the water from the stern gate of the amphibious assault ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Ashland is part of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, which is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force for any type of contingency. (Photo by MC1 Alexandra Seeley)
The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) transits the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia, Aug. 23, 2017. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Breanna Weisenberger)
WHITE BEACH NAVAL FACILITY, OKINAWA, Japan -- The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in Okinawa to conduct the final offload of 31st MEU equipment, vehicles, and personnel, Sept. 19.
Bonhomme Richard departed Sasebo, Japan, for a regularly-scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), June 1. During the deployment, Bonhomme Richard and the 31st MEU participated in the bilateral, biennial U.S.-Australia exercise Talisman Saber 2017 (TS17), completed amphibious integration training (AIT) and certified as fully capable during the 31st MEU’s certification exercise (CERTEX).
“The accomplishments of our Sailors and Marines throughout this deployment exceeded all expectations,” said Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “It has been an honor serving with the 31st MEU in this AOR. With all the training that we’ve done together, side-by-side, we have proven to be an unbeatable team.”
Through the exercises conducted during TS17, AIT and CERTEX, the Navy-Marine Corps team’s posture forward remains reinforced as a fully flexible and ready-response force, said Col. Tye Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st MEU.
"It is exercises like Talisman Saber that enable the 31st MEU to be prepared to respond to contingencies throughout the region,” said Wallace. “We will remain forward, flexible and ready to face any crisis, and we have been grateful for the opportunity to work with our close allies."
While in Okinawa, the 31st MEU will off-load cargo and disembark approximately 1,200 Marine personnel, signifying the end of their deployment, while Sailors of Bonhomme Richard and Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7 will assist with the ship-to-shore offload of heavy-lift vehicles and equipment utilizing landing craft air cushions (LCAC).
“The LCAC is our primary ship-to-shore mover and the fastest transporter of heavy-lift equipment and vehicles,” said Electronic’s Technician 2nd Class Patrick Johnson, an NBU 7 navigator. “We do a lot of working directly with the Marines, so we create really great working relationships with them and by the end of the deployment, the evolution is so smooth.”
The 31st MEU concludes their farewell deployment aboard Bonhomme Richard as the ship is scheduled to turn over duties with the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in winter 2018.
The BHR ESG consists of Bonhomme Richard, USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and USS Ashland (LSD 48). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the BHR ESG, is operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance partnerships and be a ready-response force for any type of contingency.