The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) embarked Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in support of joint force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, June 25.
During the onload, Bonhomme Richard’s combat cargo department loaded more than 100 vehicles and 300 pieces of equipment from the MEU’s ground combat element, aviation combat element (ACE), logistics combat element and command element.
“It was a lot of hard work,” said Gunnery Sgt. Raymond Gaddy, combat cargo’s upper vehicle stowage supervisor. “Seeing the end result gives me and many of the other combat cargo Marines a sense of accomplishment.”
Preparations to embark the MEU began weeks before Bonhomme Richard departed Sasebo, Japan. Flight deck forklift and safety qualifications were updated and new personnel were trained to perform in a fast-paced environment.
“We trained and we put into action all the skills necessary to load all of this equipment efficiently,” said Gaddy. “Now that everything is onboard, we can move onto the patrol itself and the exercises.”
For some Marines, this might be ‘just another patrol’, but for others, it will be their first experience aboard a Navy ship.
“This is exciting,” said Lance Cpl. Trace Walker, 31st MEU Marine embarking for his first deployment. “I can’t wait to get underway and put my training to work.”
The 31st MEU consists of a reinforced infantry battalion, a reinforced tiltrotor squadron, a combat logistics battalion, and a command element that allow the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) to conduct amphibious operations from the sea and project power ashore.
This patrol will also feature MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265, embarked as part of the ACE for its first forward-deployed patrol with Bonhomme Richard.
Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley and is currently conducting joint force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
Press Release, June 27, 2013; Image: US Navy