The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) embarked elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) Aviation Combat Element (ACE), June 24.
The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and the 31st MEU will conduct joint forces operations in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
The ACE of the 31st MEU is comprised of Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (reinforced) 265, which includes AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft, AH-1W Super Cobras, CH-53E Super Stallions, newly upgraded UH-1Y Venom helicopters, and MV-22 Ospreys.
“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 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 Air Department is responsible for safely directing, launching and recovering the ACE aircraft.
“It’s great to have VMM-265 back aboard,” said Cmdr. Hans Sholley, Bonhomme Richard’s air boss. “They are the reason the ship has an Air Department and we strive every day to make the flight deck the safest and most efficient facility possible.”
The ACE will make history this year by embarking MV-22 Ospreys for the first time on a Forward Deployed Naval Force ship in the Asia-Pacific region. The Osprey replaces the CH-46E Sea Knight and is a leap forward in enhancing combat air support.
“The MV-22 is a significant upgrade in assault support capabilities,” said Sholley. “The speed and range that it provides the landing force commander gives an incredible amount of flexibility for response and operations.”
The 31st MEU is the only permanently forward-deployed MEU that maintains a presence in the Pacific Ocean at all times as part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and is based out of Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan.
The Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.
Press Release, June 26, 2013; Image: US Navy