USS Decatur (DDG 73) sails in formation alongside USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during interoperability drills in the South China Sea, Oct. 13. (U.S. Navy/PO3 Gerald Dudley Reynolds)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group conducted a second iteration of drills with two guided-missile destroyers from the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) in international waters, Oct. 13-15.

The BHR ESG conducted a series of training events with Destroyer Squadron 31, USS Spruance (DDG 111), and USS Decatur (DDG 73) to increase amphibious maritime warfighting proficiency by leveraging the multi-mission capabilities of cruiser-destroyer (CRUDES) units.

Training events included PAC SAG integration for High Value Unit defense, air defense, surface and anti-submarine warfare operations. Embarked aircraft detachments within the ESG, to include MV-22 Ospreys and UH-1Y Hueys of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, were utilized in conjunction with Spruance’s embarked MH-60Rs for a variety of maritime warfare missions including defense against potential surface threats.

“The seamless integration of CRUDES capabilities into the expeditionary force enhances the already dynamic capabilities inherent in the embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit,” said Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7, who also commands the BHR ESG. “I’m proud of the professionalism displayed by our teams in maximizing the training during this event and capturing lessons that will improve our warfighting readiness.”

The BHR ESG consists of amphibious ships included in a traditional amphibious ready group along with the staff structure to deploy with surface ships, expanding the mission sets and capability of the ESG. The drills were meant to test the ESG 7 staff and subordinate units and associated staffs in being able to rapidly integrate destroyers like Spruance and Decatur.

"Conducting these ESG integration exercises further emphasized the level of coordination required for multiple naval platforms to work cohesively," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Harvey, combat information center officer on Decatur. "In doing this it helped us identify the multiple combat systems, air assets and personnel necessary to enhance our mission capability and achieve success."

The PAC SAG, serving forward under the operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet and commanded by Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 31,deployed in April as part of a three-ship group consisting of Spruance, Decatur, USS Momsen (DDG 92) and embarked helicopter detachments of HSM 49 to conduct maritime security operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater. While Spruance and Decatur conduct routine patrols in the Western Pacific, Momsen is conducting an Oceania Maritime Security Initiate (OMSI) mission.

The BHR ESG is currently on a routine patrol in U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the region.

BHR ESG units include flagship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Germantown (LSD 42), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 31st MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment (2/4), Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 Reinforced.