USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) file photo. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Sarah Villegas)

SASEBO, Japan - Forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) departed Sasebo, Japan for a regularly-scheduled patrol in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR), Feb. 27.

Bonhomme Richard is scheduled to finalize shipboard certifications and conduct joint force operations with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) as they perform amphibious integration training (AIT) in preparation for a certification exercise (CERTEX).

“This in-port period allowed Bonhomme Richard’s crew and contractors to perform key maintenance in preparation for our first patrol of 2017,” said Capt. Jeffrey Ward, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “With the superior performance I’ve seen across the deck plates, I am certain the crew is ready to effectively execute our mission and continue to provide a rapid-response capability within our AOR.”

AIT and CERTEX will focus on the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group’s and the MEU’s amphibious assault and humanitarian assistance capabilities, disaster relief operations and non-combatant evacuation missions.

“The focus mission of our Marines for patrol 17-1 is to complete AIT, and follow it up with CERTEX, their certification exercise, which will allow the MEU to know that our elements of the Marine Expeditionary Unit qualify to complete certain tasks,” said Gunnery Sgt. Hughey Donald, Bonhomme Richard’s flight deck combat cargo assistant. “So during that period of time, we’ll be doing call-aways, [simulated] helicopter raids and so forth to show the proficiency of the crew.”

While Marine air and amphibious exercises will be at the forefront of Bonhomme Richard’s operations for patrol, several shipboard departments, including deck, engineering and 3M, will also be conducting their own certifications.

Bonhomme Richard is on a routine patrol, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to serve as a forward-capability for any type of contingency.