EAST CHINA SEA - The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) with embarked Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are hosting four officers from the Royal Thai Navy and Marine Corps.
The liaison officers are on Bonhomme Richard to prepare for the upcoming annual multinational combined joint training exercise Cobra Gold.
"We are part of the main core planning team for Cobra Gold," said Royal Thai Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rakpan Weerapat, operations officer, HTMS [His Thai Majesty's Ship] Angthong (LPD 791). "This is a great opportunity for our two navies to learn from each other."
According to Maj. Michael McDowell, 31st MEU's fire control officer, the Thai officers want to become familiar with tactics, techniques and procedures in order to coordinate the exercise as bilateral partners.
"Strength comes in unity," said McDowell. "We have been presented with a unique opportunity and I think it will be great to work with our Thai counterparts."
The two Thai navy and two Thai marine officers toured the ship observing flight and well deck operations, and attended various capabilities briefs, all part of the rapid response process planning for CG 13.
"Observing underway daily operations on the Bonhomme Richard has really helped me understand more about the amphibious force," said Royal Thai Navy Lt.j.g Sarawong Piyanat, 4th Platoon, Seal Team 3, Naval Special Warfare Command. "I am really looking forward to this year's exercise."
PHIBRON 11 is responsible for the coordination and planning side of Cobra Gold 13 and that is where Sailors and Marines really get to work as one cohesive team. This gave the visitors an opportunity to see the integration first hand.
"They haven't integrated their Navy and Marine Corps yet, so we are the model to help them take that next step," said McDowell.
The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group, currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, is made up of the Bonhomme Richard, USS Tortuga (LSD 46), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and reports to Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan.