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Okinawa College Students Tour USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)

By Sgt. Tiffany Edwards | 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit | March 29, 2017

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6), At Sea, Pacific Ocean -- College students from Okinawa International University, Ryukyu University and Toyo Medical Community College toured the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the Pacific Ocean, March 25, 2017 as part of a military exchange experience during the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s 17.1 Spring Patrol of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The students landed aboard the ship in an MV-22B Osprey, and met with Expeditionary Strike Group 7 Commander Rear Adm. Marc Dalton, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Commanding Officer Capt. Jeffrey Ward, 31st MEU Commanding Officer Col. Tye R. Wallace and Amphibious Squadron 11 Commander Capt. George Doyon. The group toured different locations of the ship, including the hangar bay, well deck and medical bay, and observed flight operations from the ship’s upper levels, with Marines and Sailors explaining different capabilities they maintain.

The students viewed static displays of various aircraft, used in rescue scenarios, such as the Navy MH-60S Seahawk, as well as amphibious and heavy equipment employed during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, such as the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement truck, the extended boom forklift and the landing craft air-cushioned vehicle. The students also toured the ship’s medical ward, which includes surgical operating rooms, a dental facility, a radiological suite and an intensive care unit used during mass casualty scenarios to provide quality emergency care for large amounts of people in a short timeframe.

“The 31st MEU and the BHR ESG are the Indo-Asia Pacific’s premier crisis response force,” Wallace said. “We have the inherent flexibility to respond to a wide range of crises and contingencies.”

Petty Officer First Class Andres Chavez, the boatswain’s mate in charge of well deck operations, explained well dock operations to the students, highlighting the significance of amphibious operations launched from the ship.

“Having the chance to show these Okinawan students what we do and how we function aboard the ship was an awesome privilege,” Chavez said. “Opportunities like these to educate the community and build relationships through understanding are important. The ship’s primary mission is to provide amphibious support, and all surface support to movements originate from the well deck, so we wanted to give them the best overview possible, to build understanding about our jobs.”

Maj. Randy White, the operations officer for Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, participated in the tour and presented heavy equipment maintained by the MEU, highlighting the unit’s history of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the region, including the Kumamoto earthquakes and Typhoon Soudelor in Saipan.

“Today was an excellent opportunity to highlight the Japan-U.S. alliance and our commitment to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief in the region to a group of Okinawan college students,” White said. “Partnership and trust is key in a joint response, and will be critical during the next crisis and can mitigate the impact on the people of Okinawa. Meetings such as these assist us in explaining the utility of the MEU and the capabilities of the Marines stationed on Okinawa and the region.”

Education and exchange programs, such as this military exchange experience, increase cooperation, trust and understanding between the U.S. military and the Okinawan community. As the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward deployed unit, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s air-ground-logistics team provides a flexible force, ready to perform a wide range of military operations, from limited combat to humanitarian assistance operations, throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

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