Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Cesar Salinas launches an AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft from the flight deck aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), March 8. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Betsy Knapper)

PACIFIC OCEAN - Sailors aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), along with Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), completed amphibious integration training (AIT) while on deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations, March 9.

AIT provides the initial opportunity for ships of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), in conjunction with the Marines of 31st MEU, to conduct operations from sea to shore to ensure their capabilities for multilateral exercises, contingency operations, or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

"The planning and evolutions conducted during AIT are a great opportunity for our Marines to learn, qualify and accomplish the MEU's mission while gaining a better understanding of what the Navy-Marine Corps Team is all about," said 31st MEU Sgt. Maj. Gonzalo A. Vasquez, a native of Belize. "Although we conduct AIT multiple times throughout the year, it is an essential part of staying trained, focused and mission ready at all times."

The training included planning for theater security cooperation, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises, and execution of a simulated helicopter raid.

While similar to some other pre-deployment exercises and training, AIT is designed to strengthen the blue-green team's ability to operate together, and respond to various situations while deployed.

According to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) ELEVEN's Operations Officer, Lt. Emily Royse, a well executed AIT prepares the ARG/MEU for a successful certification event.

"AIT is all about the ARG/MEU's ability to operate effectively together," said Royse. "This is the first opportunity for the ARG/MEU to come together to conduct hands-on training and integrated operations, prior to the certification exercise (CERTEX) and is crucial for the continued success of the Navy-Marine Corps team."

PHIBRON 11, 31st MEU, Naval Beach Unit 7 and Bonhomme Richard ARG all team up to create one of the most flexible forces in the Asia-Pacific region, which is capable of accomplishing numerous missions anywhere in the world.

Bonhomme Richard ARG is currently operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations and reports to Commander, Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.