USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) operates in the Gulf of Thailand, Feb. 16. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Gavin Shields)

GULF OF THAILAND - The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) departed Laem Chabang, Thailand, Feb. 14, following a scheduled port visit and an opening ceremony for Exercise Cobra Gold 2018 (CG18).

While in port, Bonhomme Richard leaders attended the CG18 opening ceremony, Feb. 13, which marked the beginning of one of the Indo-Pacific region’s largest multinational exercises. Designed to integrate the U.S. military with the Armed Forces of the Kingdom of Thailand and other partner nations, Cobra Gold demonstrates the commitment of the Kingdom of Thailand and the U.S. as long-standing allies.

“Our time in Laem Chabang allowed for us to take part in kicking off Cobra Gold 2018, as well as the chance for our Sailors and Marines to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand,” said Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. “I am proud of the commitment that our team has displayed in gearing up for this large-scale exercise, and I am confident in their abilities to execute the upcoming amphibious operations alongside our Thai allies.”

As part of CG18’s mission to integrate allied U.S. and Thai armed forces, Bonhomme Richard Sailors hosted Royal Thai Navy personnel onboard for a day of hands-on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) training.

“During the demonstration, we covered individual protection equipment, detection equipment and decontamination procedures for personnel,” said Lt. j.g. Sean Murray, Bonhomme Richard’s damage control assistant. “This was a part of Cobra Gold to inform and teach the Royal Thai Navy on U.S. Navy ship-specific casualty control procedures for CBRN defense.”

As the training aimed to support upcoming field exercises scheduled to take place during CG18, the event also emphasized the combined U.S.-Thai efforts towards regional security and response capability.

Throughout the port visit, Sailors had the opportunity to experience Thai culture through a community relations (COMREL) project, coordinated by the ship’s Chaplain Department, and a variety of tours sponsored by the ship’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) division.

“I was able to take advantage of the MWR tour for the Pattaya Floating Market and it was an awesome experience,” said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Kevina Mahlum, a tour participant. “My favorite part was being able to learn more about the country by interacting with the locals and getting to taste the different types of foods and spices.”

Now that the ship is back underway to participate in CG18, Bonhomme Richard Sailors and Marines of the 3d Marine Division (MARDIV) will operate together to maintain readiness while working alongside Royal Thai Navy ships to conduct a range of amphibious operations that will enhance the tactical expertise of the participants, and allow for the practice of combined capabilities to respond to contingencies.

CG18 is the 37th iteration of the exercise and will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Among participating nations are the Kingdom of Thailand, the U.S., Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.

Bonhomme Richard is on a regularly scheduled patrol in the Indo-Pacific region supporting security and stability in the region.