An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542 approaches the flight deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during evening flight operations. The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), are currently participating in Certification Exercise (CERTEX). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell)

PHILIPPINE SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), began Certification Exercise (CERTEX), Sept. 10, during a scheduled deployment.

CERTEX is an evaluated event that focuses on the 31st MEU capability of conducting vital missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations or non-combatant evacuation operations with the ARG.

"This is a great opportunity to exercise the capabilities of a MEU in a different location than what we are used to," said Lt. Col. Andrew Priddy, commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 31st MEU. "In addition, we're looking forward to working alongside with Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) partners during this evolution."

The U.S. Navy and Japan Ground Self Defense Forces have a long established bilateral partnership which is an essential part of maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Many scenarios will be presented to the 31st MEU and the ARG, in which they will have a time limit to provide a plan and then execute the mission.

"CERTEX is not only a test of our integration and operational capacity but it's also the final validation of the Blue-Green team's ability to work together and to execute any mission that's necessary," said Lt. Emily Royse, operations officer for Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11.

The exercise will test the ability to operate in several evolutions including small boat operations, helicopter and amphibious operations, mass casualty response drills and a non-combatant evacuation operation. All evolutions will consist of transporting equipment and personnel to designated locations.

"The crew understands their position as being a forward-deployed naval force," said Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Joshua Allen, craft master of Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) 10 and leading chief petty officer of Naval Beach Unit 7. "After completing six months of training, I'm confident that our team will perform at any level needed to complete this exercise."

The U.S. Navy maintains a forward presence in the Asia-Pacific region to contribute to the freedom of navigation in the territorial waters and airspace of coastal nations, which supports economic development and international commerce.

Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations.

For more news from Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11, visit www.navy.mil/local/cpr11/.