USS Tortuga (LSD 46) departs Sasebo Jan. 14 for a Western Pacific patrol. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam M. Bennett)

SASEBO, Japan - The forward-deployed dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), departed Sasebo Jan. 14 for its spring patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

Tortuga will take part in an Amphibious Integration Training (AIT) and Certification Exercise (CERTEX), participate in the annual multinational combined joint training exercise Cobra Gold, and conduct various other exercises.

AIT and CERTEX are training exercises focusing on the ARG and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) amphibious assault capabilities, humanitarian assistance capabilities, disaster relief operations, and non-combatant evacuation missions.

Cobra Gold is an annual U.S and Kingdom of Thailand sponsored joint, multinational exercise intended to demonstrate the ability to rapidly deploy a joint task force to conduct combined operations at sea and ashore.

"We look forward to every opportunity to train and deploy with our Marines and to work with partners, friends, and allies throughout the AOR," said Cmdr. John Barnett, Tortuga's commanding officer. These exercises and operations not only keep our own proficiency level high but also helps us evaluate and improve our cooperation with our allies."

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

Tortuga is the first of three ships to get underway. The USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and USS Germantown (LSD 42) are also scheduled to participate in the exercises. Those ships will depart and meet up with Tortuga at a later date.

Bonhomme Richard ARG reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.