Sailors aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) raise the ensign while navigating the waters of the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Kelsey L. Adams)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - Amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) conducted a routine patrol in international waters of the South China Sea Feb. 26 after participating in exercise Cobra Gold 16.

In recent months, other U.S. Navy ships have conducted similar operations in the 7th Fleet area of operations including the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Preble (DDG 88), the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).

USS McCampbell (DDG 85) completed a similar patrol Feb. 22.

“As always, the officers and crew navigated the ship in a highly professional manner. Routine in execution, transits like these have the additional benefit of training our junior officers and watch standers on real world applications associated with International Maritime Law,” said Cmdr. Dan Duhan, commanding officer of Ashland.

The transit followed Ashland’s recent participation in exercise Cobra Gold 16, a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored multinational joint exercise that is an integral part of the U.S. commitment toward advancing prosperity and security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Ashland, with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently on patrol in 7th Fleet as part of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). The Bonhomme Richard ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), Ashland and amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42).

Ashland is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan, and operates in U.S. 7th Fleet to support a full range of theater contingencies, ranging from humanitarian and disaster relief operations to full combat operations.

Seaman Recruit Billy Fields stand a lookout watch as USS Ashland (LSD 48) operates in the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Kelsey L. Adams)