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SHOALWATER BAY, Australia - “ATTENTION LANDING FORCE, stand by for call away!” The 1MC, the ship’s announcing system, booms through the hangar bay and berthing areas aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) to muster up Marines for departure to insertion points ashore.
Bonhomme Richard, landing craft from Naval Beach Unit (NBU 7), and ships of the combined amphibious force launched Australian soldiers and U.S. Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) ashore to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townshend Island in several waves of landings, followed by support and resupply runs from July 12-20.
The landing craft air cushions (LCAC) splashed up on the beach, kicking up sand and a cloud of dust as the hovercraft drifted into the landing zone. Landing craft utility (LCU) coasted into the shoreline shortly after MV-22 B Ospreys chopped in overhead near the ridges of mountains lining the beach. CH-53E Super Stallions pumped in past the tree lines to a landing zone, shoving up dirt and debris. One after another, aircraft and landing craft alike continued to surface on the beach and station on the landing zones to ensure the Marines had the supplies, mobility, and artillery to complete objectives ashore.
The effort was made possible by the collaboration of the Blue-Green team, between U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as their counterparts in the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy. Marines and soldiers were launched ashore to conduct live-fire-training and follow-on movements against units role-playing as opposing forces on Townshend Island. The combined training operations were executed within the framework of stability operations and crisis response.
The ability to continuously move people and equipment over a multi-day period is no easy task. It comes at a price for craft masters, beach party teams and other support personnel assigned to the mission. The constant running of the engines requires meticulous maintenance and thorough training so that each craft can continue to run like the well oiled machines they’re meant to be.
“From the time we start [engine] mains to the time we sit down in the well deck for post mission brief, there are always things to learn from,” said Boatswains Mate 2nd Class Clinet Jordon, a load master and engineer assigned to NBU 7. “No single mission is ever perfect, but we adapt and overcome. We’re ready to go, we know how to fix it to get back in the fight and carry out the mission.”
The commitment to getting troops ashore carries from the belly of the beast--down in the well deck, to operational planning meetings on the “O-2” level and all the way up to the eyes in the bridge on the “O-6.” Coordination for an amphibious assault of this scale requires teamwork and communication from Navy and Marine Corps counterparts at every level.
“There are a lot of moving parts and pieces, but I think this ship [Bonhomme Richard] does a phenomenal job in supporting the MAGTF [Marine Air-Ground Task Force],” said Master Sgt. Jason Kesner, senior combat cargo assistant, USS Bonhomme Richard. “From the flight deck where they’re getting aircraft refueled, combat cargo loading personnel, deck department moving craft, and then the bridge is putting the ship into position to launch at any given time. The ship is doing a great job in putting the Marines where they need to be, when they need to be there.”
With unmatched professionalism and esprit de corps, this Blue-Green team is unrivaled when it comes to launching landing forces ashore from the high seas.
“We’re a big family, the blue-green team,” said Jordon. “We can operate on any beach around the world, so we can help put Marines into the fight. This is what we trained for.”
The U.S.-Australia-New Zealand amphibious force is a composite of an U.S.-led expeditionary strike group, an Australian-led amphibious task group, and a number of Australian and U.S. escort ships. The Royal Australian Navy amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra (III) (L02) has been serving as the amphibious assault ship counterpart to Bonhomme Richard.
Talisman Saber is a biennial, U.S.-Australia, bilateral military exercise that combines a field training exercise and command post exercise to strengthen interoperability and working relationships.