Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group Departs 7th Fleet

By Lt. j.g. Tim Hawkins, Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) -- The Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) departed the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of its regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific and Persian Gulf Nov. 10.

Led by Capt. Rodney Clark, the ARG consists of more than 2,300 personnel who serve aboard three ships — amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6); amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland (LPD 7); and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47).

"We've enjoyed working with partner nations and representing the Navy's commitment to the region," said Clark. "Everywhere we operated or visited, our Sailors and Marines made a positive difference."

Sailors and Marines made port calls to Guam, Timor-Leste, Singapore and Thailand; and also operated ashore in both Timor-Leste and Indonesia Oct. 14 – 24 during Marine Exercise (MAREX) 2009, a multilateral training exercise.

Bonhomme Richard completed the Timor-Leste portion of MAREX and worked with Timor-Leste's armed forces and International Stabilization Force to enhance interoperability and communication between the U.S. Navy and Timor-Leste forces.

Cleveland and Rushmore personnel completed the Indonesian portion and trained with the Indonesian Marines in areas including jungle operations, platoon live-fire and maneuvers, bilateral reconnaissance, and military operations in urban terrain.

The ARG/MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) team also participated in humanitarian projects, sending Sailors and Marines ashore in Indonesia and Timor-Leste to provide medical and dental care to a total of more than 2,000 patients in cooperation with local healthcare officials.

In addition to completing MAREX, members of the ARG/MEU team volunteered in over a dozen community service projects during four port visits throughout the region. Projects ranged from cleaning kennels at an animal shelter in Guam, repairing playground structures in Phuket, Thailand and interacting with children at orphanages in Dili, Timor-Leste.

"The expressions of gratitude from our hosts and the sense of satisfaction held by our Marines and Sailors were indicators of our success," said Cmdr. John Shimotsu, Bonhomme Richard's chaplain and community service coordinator. "Each of these projects expanded the scope of our positive exchanges."

In addition to its ships, the ARG consists of the command element, Amphibious Squadron 7; Tactical Air Control Squadron 12, Detachment 1; Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23, Detachment 3; Assault Craft Unit 1, Detachment B; Assault Craft Unit 5, Detachment F; Beachmaster Unit 1, Detachment B; and Fleet Surgical Team 9.

The 7th Fleet operating area includes more than half of the world's population and more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian oceans — stretching from the International Date Line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to Antarctica in the south.

While transiting the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, the Bonhomme Richard ARG reported to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.