By MC2 Sarah Villegas, ESG 7 Public Affairs
In this file photo, ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group form up with ships from the Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy during exercise Talisman Saber in July. (Royal Australian Navy/LSIS Helen Frank) >>
OKINAWA, Japan - The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) arrived in Okinawa, Japan, to offload the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Sept. 19, capping a multi-month deployment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, deployed together since early June, successfully completed multiple certifications, participated in Talisman Saber 17, and conducted port visits throughout Australia.
The Blue-Green Team participated in the biennial exercise Talisman Saber off the coast of Australia to achieve interoperability and strengthen the U.S.-Australia alliance. The bilateral training tested watchstanders in nearly every domain—surface, air, undersea—and increased proficiencies in the ESG’s primary mission of landing forces ashore.
"It was phenomenal to work side-by-side with our Australian and New Zealand counterparts during Talisman Saber," said Capt. George Doyon, commander, Amphibious Squadron 11. "It is exciting to work with highly capable naval allies, who give us training advantages and very valuable war fighting experience. Talisman Saber and the follow-on Blue-Green training ensures we stay ready as the crisis response force for the region."
The exercise also doubled as ESG 7’s certification exercise to remain the Navy’s only forward-deployed certified expeditionary strike group staff.
Following Talisman Saber, the BHR ESG and MEU conducted amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercise (CERTEX) to flex the wide range of MEU missions from humanitarian assistance to combat operations.
"Working with our allies and partners has been extremely valuable,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, commanding officer of the 31st MEU. “Talisman Saber offered a unique opportunity to increase our interoperability with the Australians. We will remain forward, flexible and ready to face any crisis, and we have been grateful for the opportunity to work with our close allies."
Additionally, Bonhomme Richard ESG Sailors and Marines excelled in their roles as ambassadors to the United States, Navy and Marine Corps during a series of port visits to Australia’s port cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, and Melbourne. During their time ashore, many Sailors and Marines participated in community service outreaches at children’s hospitals and care centers for underprivileged and disabled members for the community.
Ashland will continue to train in the region and participate in exercises as Bonhomme Richard and Green Bay undergo scheduled maintenance periods.