Amphibious assault vehicles prepare to launch from the well deck of amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). (U.S. Navy/MCSN Raymond D. Diaz III)

EAST CHINA SEA - Sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed the first evolution of Amphibious Integration Training (AIT) March 1.

The training is designed to strengthen the ties between Sailors and Marines while conducting amphibious operations.

"We have to work together and coordinate with the Navy," said Sgt. William Payton, assigned to Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. "If we don't communicate and work together, then we will never be able to complete the mission."

The purpose of AIT is to test the capabilities of the 31st MEU and Bonhomme Richard ARG Sailors.

"Everything we do is really kind of important it's got its own aspect," said Mineman 1st Class Royce Parfait, Landing Craft Air Cushion Navigator assigned to Naval Beach Unit 7. "It's a chance for us to be more proficient as an amphibious group and there's really no one section of it that's more important than another."

During the training, the 31st MEU will plan and execute a helicopter raid, small boat raid, mechanized raid, and embassy reinforcement/noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO).

Additionally, several emergency scenarios will be executed, including a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, mass casualty support, and platoon reinforcement.

"Amphibious integration training is our time to work out relationships and processes for executing the amphibious warfare mission sets," said Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. "This is the first time that many elements of the blue-green team have operated from the ship."

Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group is made up of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Ashland (LSD 48) and is currently conducting operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations.