Amphibious assault vehicles from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit depart the well deck of USS Ashland (LSD 48), March 30 off the east coast of the Republic of Korea. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Christian Senyk)

WATERS EAST OF THE KOREAN PENINSULA - The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), began participation in the Korean Marine Exchange Program, March 28, off the coast of the Republic of Korea (ROK) with the ROK Navy and Marine Corps.

During the weeklong bilateral exercise, approximately 2,200 U.S. Marine Corps and 2,000 U.S. Navy personnel are training alongside 3,500 ROK Marine and Navy forces both at sea and ashore to improve their interoperability and capabilities in amphibious operations.

“It’s always a pleasure working alongside our Republic of Korea (ROK) friends and allies,” said Capt. Joey Tynch, Bonhomme Richard commanding officer. “Not only do they honor us by welcoming us into their waters but also allow our Marines to practice with their ROK counterparts. These exercises help us practice our primary mission of supporting and deploying Marine units by air or sea and strengthen our relations with our Pacific partners. The Korean Marine Exchange Program provides further proof that Sailors and Marines of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group are prepared to execute any mission in support of our nation and our allies.”

The ships of the ARG provide the springboard from which the launch landing craft to shore and aircraft to the landing zone carrying the 31st MEU Marines.

“It’s a centuries-old, co-reliant relationship,” Cmdr. Kirk Knox, Bonhomme Richard operations officer. “The Marines Corps was formed to give the Navy reach from the sea. The Navy relies on Marines as a way to project power beyond the reach of our ships and the Navy provides the Marines with a platform to support and launch their missions and fulfill their purpose.”

Without the 31st MEU the Whidbey-island class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and the Bonhomme Richard would no longer form an amphibious ready group.

“It’s the Marines that make us an amphibious ready group, without them the ARG would be without arms,” said Knox. “This Korean Marine Exchange Program is one of the many exercises the 31st MEU uses to amplify our allied force, training allied nations in the same skills and strategies that make the United States Marine such potent warfighters.”

The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), the Whidbey-island class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) and the embarked 31st MEU are currently underway in the Asia-Pacific region conducting routine exercises with our regional allied partners.

An MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) offloads 31st MEU Marines returning from the Korean Marine Exchange Program. (U.S Navy/MC3 Cameron McCulloch)
Republic of Korea Navy Landing Ship Fast (LSF) 631 enters the well deck of USS Green Bay (LPD 20) during KEMP. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Scott Barnes)