The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) departed Darwin, Australia Aug. 31.
Bonhomme Richard is in Darwin as part of Exercise Koolendong 2013 (KD 13), a bilateral exercise taking place at the Bradshaw Field Training Area (BFTA) in Australia’s Northern Territory.
“We are looking forward to continuing training with one of our closest allies in the region during KD 13,” said USS Bonhomme Richard Commanding Officer Capt. Daniel Dusek.
“This visit not only demonstrates the United States commitment to the region, but also provides a great opportunity to enjoy the hospitality of the people of Darwin.”
While in port Bonhomme Richard Sailors and Marines conducted an offload of 31st MEU Marines and equipment in preparation for KD 13, as well as participated in various community service projects, sporting events.
One of the community service projects that BHR participated in was an after school activity with Girls Engagement Mentoring and Support (GEMS), a program offering extracurricular and sporting activities to girls after school, to encourage them to remain in school until graduation from 12th Grade. Sailors and Marines answered questions about life in the Navy and Marine Corps, lead the girls in calisthenics, and then played a friendly game of dodge ball.
“It’s important for Sailors and Marines to remember that we are members of society, not just members of the Navy.” Commander William Muhm, Bonhomme Richard’s chaplain said.
“We’re in the military for a limited period of time, but we will be members of society all our lives.
“Community service project events are good for us, because they bring into contact with people we normally would not see; children, the elderly, and the sick.”
BHR also had a friendly game of Rugby with the Charles Darwin University Pirates, and the Union Club Darwin Dragons at Rugby Grounds at Marrara Sporting Complex.
“We always have fun with some barbecue and some drinks afterward as well as trading jerseys and much more,” Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Barbosa, a member of the BHR Rugby team, said. “It’s not about a win or a loss, it’s about connecting with foreign countries and meeting on common ground.”
The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, commanded by Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, is currently participating in Exercise Koolendong with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Press Release, September 02, 2013; Image: Navy