SASEBO, Japan (Jan. 23, 2012) Capt. David Fluker, commanding officer of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) gives Rear Adm. Gerard P. Hueber, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, a tour of the ship's flight deck during his visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Jenkins)

SASEBO, Japan - Rear Adm. Gerard P. Hueber, commander Expeditionary Strike Group 3, visited the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) Jan. 23, to discuss with Essex leadership the upcoming hull swap with USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).

During Hueber's visit, he met with Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, commander Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Capt. David Fluker, Essex' commanding officer and Capt. Bradley Lee, commander of Amphibious Squadron Eleven to discuss Essex' plan of action and preparation for the hull swap.

Essex will be relieved in the spring by Bonhomme Richard as the Navy's only permanently forward deployed amphibious assault ship. Essex will be reassigned to the U.S. 3rd Fleet and homeported in San Diego, Calif. The crews of both ships will remain in their current geographic locations and exchange commands.

"Essex has been planning for the hull swap for well over a year now and we have been coordinating with Bonhomme Richard to ensure everything goes smoothly and according to plan." said Fluker. "The admiral's visit was a great chance to demonstrate Essex' plans to date for this complex evolution. Our Sailors have been working diligently to prepare the Essex for her new home and crew."

During the ship's 11-year assignment to the 7th Fleet, Essex provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to several countries in the region and has maintained strong relationships with partner navies in the Pacific.

Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear Adm. J. Scott Jones, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.