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CORAL SEA - The forward-deployed Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG), with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), began Amphibious Integration Training (AIT) Aug. 2 to ensure that the blue-green team can accomplish a wide-range of missions in response to a potential contingency.
AIT consists of a series of drills and evaluations to test the MEU and ESG’s ability to conduct missions from ship-to-shore. Some of the scheduled evolutions include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, a non-combat evacuation operation (NEO), combat operations, and reconnaissance raids via small boats and helicopters.
The Bonhomme Richard ESG consists of the flagship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Ashland (LSD 48) and USS Green Bay (LPD 20), which all are now underway after making port visits in Australia. The training evolutions are taking place off the coast of Australia following the ESG’s recent completion of joint training with Australian and New Zealand counterparts during exercise Talisman Saber 17.
“Our Marines and Sailors are taking advantage of the unique opportunity to conduct missions in a training area they are unfamiliar with during this deployment,” said Col. Tye Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “Being able to hone our combat skills as an integrated Navy-Marine Corps team is critical. Amphibious Integration Training allows our team to practice and perfect the wide range of amphibious-operations that we will execute as a crisis response force throughout the region.”
AIT will focus on rapid integration of amphibious ships’ and the MEU’s capabilities to respond at a moment’s notice to any type of contingency. Additionally, the training helps to maintain proficiency in the core task of being the combatant commander’s ready force in a crisis.
“This AIT challenges the blue-green team to respond effectively in a variety of real world situations,” said Capt. George Doyon, commodore, Amphibious Squadron 11. “In this theater, we must remain ready with raid forces, to evacuate personnel or a dozen other scenarios. Being ready all the time for typhoons, earthquakes or anything else, keeps our personnel sharp, focused, and mission ready to respond when called upon.”
AIT training evolutions are specifically designed to increase proficiency in tactical execution of core amphibious tasks that involve launching and recovering fixed and rotary wing aircraft as well as amphibious surface crafts to recover aircraft or personnel, reinforce embassies or other U.S. assets ashore or secure key logistical nodes to facilitate introduction of joint and combined military forces.
While Marines conduct missions ashore, Sailors will conduct joint shipboard weapon drills in defense of amphibious assets including subsurface warfare maneuvering, air defense exercises. The overall concept of the training is to flex Blue-Green units to operate seamlessly together with precision that can be used in real world events.
“Amphibious FDNF [Forward Deployed Naval Forces] ships have a history of being the first on scene for disaster relief after typhoons or earthquakes, but we also have the capability of bringing the fight to the shores of anyone who threatens us,” said Ens. Dewey Mckoy, officer in charge Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, embarked with Amphibious Squadron 11 on Bonhomme Richard.
The BHR ESG is on a routine patrol operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to enhance warfighting readiness and posture forward as a ready-response force for any type of contingency.