Ensign Robert Prine, left; Capt. Brian Finman, Expeditionary Strike Group 7's deputy chief of staff, right; and Chief Operations Specialist Kevin O. Griffith watch for incoming threats on a radar repeater during a fast attack craft/fast in-shore attack craft exercise aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy/MC3 Taylor A. Elberg)

CELBES SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) recently conducted both a fast attack craft/fast in-shore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) exercise and an air defense exercise (ADEX), testing the ships' ability to work together using command and control to identify and defend against threats.

The ESG is comprised of USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Preble (DDG 88), USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU).

“The opportunity to train with an air-defense platform like the guided missile destroyer is invaluable,” Ensign Rob Prine, air defense command and liaison officer to Bonhomme Richard, said about the June 18 exercises. “The Preble’s Aegis weapons system and tactical data link capability increases the ESG’s over the horizon capability and brings highly experienced air defense watch standers to the team.”

Bonhomme Richard launched harriers to simulate adversary aircraft. By incorporating live aircraft into the tactical picture the strike group received the most realistic training possible. Experienced operations specialists from Preble were also sent out among the ships to provide experienced instruction.

“The ADEX was a valuable opportunity to knock the rust off,” said Capt. Kristy McCallum, commanding officer Green Bay. “And to ensure the experienced watch standers are training and integrating the next generation of warfighters.”

Additionally, Bonhomme Richard used organic landing craft air cushion (LCAC) vehicles to simulate fast boats maneuvering around the ESG.

“The key to countering any threat, especially one as diverse and agile as FAC/FIAC, is early detection and communication and neither is easy in an area as diverse as 7th Fleet,” said McCallum, “As such, we train and certify to counter small boat and missile boat attacks, so the Sailors and their equipment have to be prepared and ready.”

Through the two exercises these ships learn to integrate and communicate in two critical mission areas.

“We have honed our ability to identify, track, engage and maneuver around small craft contacts and as a result strengthened our ability to defend the ESG,” said Lt. Matthew Huber, fire control officer aboard USS Preble.

The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.