OKINAWA, Japan -- The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) arrived at White Beach, Okinawa on April 9, for the final time, as it prepares to sail to San Diego for a homeport shift.
Forward-deployed since 2012, Bonhomme Richard has frequently stopped in White Beach to either onload or drop off Marines, most often those from 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit but also units under 3rd Marine Division and 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
As a tribute to the continual support that the Okinawa community has provided to Bonhomme Richard over the years, the ship will host members of the community for ship tours and interact with thousands of citizens planned to attend the White Beach Festival taking place April 14-15.
"I would like to thank the people of Okinawa for their years of hospitality and friendship," said Capt. Larry McCullen, commanding officer of Bonhomme Richard. "The Sailors and Marines of Bonhomme Richard look forward to hosting our Okinawa friends onboard during White Beach Fest. I know that my crew looks forward to experiencing the rich culture of the island one last time before we continue our patrol."
In addition to the White Beach Festival, Bonhomme Richard Sailors will also participate in English exchanges with members of the community by playing board games and cards games with them at select venues around Okinawa. The events aim to promote positive interaction and cultural awareness between service members and citizens of Okinawa. Volunteering groups include Bonhomme Richard's First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA), Junior Sailor Association (JSA), and Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions (CSADD).
"Community relations are essential to the mission because we need to have a strong-lasting relationship with the people we come in contact with," said Yeoman 3rd Class Jamal Thompson, president of Bonhomme Richard's CSADD. "Community Relations (COMREL) projects are just one of the many ways we can do that. When these countries open up their communities and the people share their stories, we are creating long-standing bonds."
Bonhomme Richard is operating in the Indo-Pacific region as part of a regularly scheduled patrol and provides a rapid-response capability in the event of a regional contingency or natural disaster.