PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 23, 2012) Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, center, chief of staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr., commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force are given a ship tour by Capt. Daniel Dusek, right, commanding officer of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell)

PHILIPPINE SEA - Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, chief of staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) visited the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) on Sept. 23 to meet with senior leadership and discuss bilateral training.

During the visit to Bonhomme Richard, Kimizuka along with Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck Jr., commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and Robert S. Luke, minister-counselor for political Affairs, U.S. Embassy Tokyo had lunch, attended a bilateral training brief and took a tour of the ship.

The brief focused on Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) amphibious capabilities and the potential for future JGSDF and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) integration with Amphibious Squadron Eleven and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Group discussion also focused on training areas in Guam and in the Marianas Islands that are currently being used to increase the proficiency of amphibious operations conducted by the Bonhomme Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

“The JMSDF and the United States Navy have a very close bond,” said Capt. Cathal O’Connor, commander Amphibious Squadron Eleven. “The U.S. Marine Corps and the JGSDF are getting closer and this has been another opportunity for Japan to see how we operate using our amphibious capabilities.”

The U.S. Navy continually strives to build and strengthen partnerships with U.S. allies. Joint exercises demonstrate enhanced amphibious capability of American and Japanese forces and promote interoperability through maritime security operations.

During the tour of the ship, the group visited command and control spaces, examined aircraft in the hangar bay and received a brief on a visit board search and seizure (VBSS) exercise that was being executed during their visit.

“We do Keen Sword and Annualex every year which are the largest Japanese and U.S. bilateral exercises, said O’Connor. “But its one thing to get together for an exercise and it’s another thing completely to be embarked during an actual deployment.”

Currently, members of the JGSDF are embarked aboard Bonhomme Richard and amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) training alongside Sailors of Bonhomme Richard ARG and Marines from the 31st MEU in maritime operation areas which include: theater security cooperation, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises.

“We have had planners, liaison officers, observers and even a boat team aboard Tortuga and Bonhomme Richard with us throughout the planning process and the operational phases,” said O’Connor. One of U.S. Pacific Fleet's top priorities is to advance regional partnerships with allies through maritime security operations, training and other engagements.

Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet of Operations.