Lt. Hannah Bennett communicates with USS Preble (DDG 88) while conducting boat operations in the South China Sea, June 11. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Alonzo M. Archer)

EAST CHINA SEA - The guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) has joined the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHRESG) on patrol in the U.S 7th Fleet area of operations.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to work with Preble and integrate them into the amphibious force," said Rear Adm. Hugh D. Wetherald, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. "What Preble brings to the ESG significantly enhances our combat capabilities and effectiveness as a strike group that can support a full spectrum of theater contingencies, ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, to full combat operations."

The addition of a destroyer increases all amphibious mission sets and adds increased weapons and over-the-horizon capability expanding the capacity of the forward-deployed amphibious force.

"The destroyer's maritime combat capability is well-paired to the ARG (amphibious ready group)," said Cmdr Jeffrey Heames, Preble's commanding officer, by "providing vital asset protection and direct support using enhanced command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); air defense; strike warfare and anti-submarine sensors and weapons, and two embarked SH-60R helicopters."

The Pearl Harbor-based Preble began its deployment to the Western Pacific in late March.

The BHRESG is comprised of amphibious assualt ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), Preble, with Amphibious Squadron 11 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.