Marines join Bonhomme Richard strike group for spring patrol
By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 8, 2017
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group began its spring patrol this week, departing from Okinawa with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The routine patrol will take the Navy’s forward-deployed Amphibious Squadron 11 and 31st MEU Marines and sailors across the 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility.
It is intended to increase security in the region, maintain readiness and support U.S. Pacific Command’s “theater security cooperation initiatives,” according to a joint statement from Amphibious Squadron 11 and the 31st MEU.
“This patrol is an excellent opportunity to refine our crises response capabilities and further our partnership with Amphibious Squadron 11,” Col. Tye Wallace, 31st MEU commander, said in the statement. “I know we will return as a stronger Navy-Marine Corps team.”
The strike group — led by the Wasp-class amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard — is commanded by Rear Adm. Marc Dalton and consists of the Bonhomme Richard; the USS Green Bay, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock; and the USS Ashland, a Whidbey Island-class dock-landing ship. The group also has the capability to add cruisers or destroyers.
31st MEU elements consist of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines; Combat Logistics Battalion 31; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262; and Marine Attack Squadron 311.
About 4,400 servicemembers are participating this year, the statement said.
The patrol is the culmination of months of unit-level training for both Marines and sailors, the statement said. In recent years, Marine leaders have stressed the importance of shifting from the desert, back to their Pacific roots. Integration with the Navy is key to those efforts.
“We are a readily deployable amphibious force capable of landing personnel where ever needed, which is why regular training and certification is our top priority,” Amphibious Squadron 11 commander Capt. George Doyon said in the statement.
Doyon added that it was critical that they rehearse contingency operations with regional partners to keep their skills sharp for any situation that could arise.
The amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard arrives in Okinawa, Japan, Saturday, March 4, 2017. The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group began its spring patrol Wednesday, March 8, 2017, departing from Okinawa with elements of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
COURTESY OF THE U.S. NAVY