By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Achterling, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs
EAST CHINA SEA – The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), embarked the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (31st MEU) Aviation Combat Element (ACE), Jan. 26.
The Bonhomme Richard ARG and the 31st MEU will take part in an amphibious integration training (AIT), certification exercise (CERTEX), participate in the annual multinational combined joint training exercise Cobra Gold and conduct various other exercises aimed at increasing mission readiness.
The Aviation Combat Element of the 31st MEU includes AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft and AH-1W Super Cobras, CH-46E Sea Knights, CH-53E Super Stallions and UH-1Y Venom helicopters.
“The ACE is an essential tool to performing a wide variety of missions from combat operations to disaster relief,” said Capt. Daniel Dusek, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “This crew of Sailors and Marines working side-by-side gives us the ability to operate forward and maintain a presence in the 7th Fleet area of operations.”
Bonhomme Richard Air Department is responsible for safely directing, launching and recovering the ACE aircraft.
“The flight deck personnel love this job and enjoy doing what they are trained to do,” said Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Berger, Bonhomme Richard’s aircraft handling officer. “I expect quality teamwork to execute these exercises in a safe and effective manner. Once the job is done the flight deck crew will be able to take pride in what they’ve accomplished.”
Bonhomme Richard provides a number of services for the ACE including aircraft handling, combat cargo loading and unloading, air traffic control, and aircraft taxiing and towing.
“The flight operations and working with Sailors has been a wonderful experience so far,” said Cpl. Jesus Balderas, 31st MEU Combat Cargo. “I’m excited to get my sea legs, and look forward to the exercises in the future.”
Cobra Gold is an annual U.S. and Kingdom of Thailand sponsored joint, multinational exercise intended to demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy a joint task force to conduct combined operations at sea and ashore.
The 31st MEU is the only permanently forward-deployed MEU, maintaining a presence in the Pacific Ocean at all times as part of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and is based out of Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.