SASEBO, Japan -- The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) departed Sasebo, Japan, April 18, capping six years of forward-deployed service in the Indo-Pacific.
Bonhomme Richard has been the flagship of the Amphibious Force 7th Fleet since April 2012 and will now transit to its new homeport in San Diego for follow-on operations and eventual upgrades to become F-35B Lightning II capable.
During her time as the primary amphibious assault ship in 7th Fleet, Bonhomme Richard participated in a number of exercises from Talisman Saber with the Australian Defense Force to exchanges with partners such as Singapore and Japan.
As a testament to the ship’s quick response capability, Bonhomme Richard sent flight deck personnel to the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo to assist in landing U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s participating in relief efforts following the Kumamoto earthquake in 2016.
“Bonhomme Richard has been the shining example of why we forward-deploy U.S. Navy ships in the Indo-Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. “The ship and its crew have achieved a high level of readiness, met every operational commitment, extended a warm hand of friendship to so many here in Sasebo and have reinforced relationships with allies in this vital region. I wish them all a heartfelt fair winds and following seas.”
Bonhomme Richard Sailors exemplified the meaning of being an Ambassador to the Sasebo community and beyond, felt Navy leaders based in Sasebo. The ship routinely participated in outreaches such as visits to Sasebo children’s homes, food drives for disadvantaged community members, and visits to local schools. The ship participated in 42 community outreach projects in its six years in Sasebo, reaching an estimated 2,100 people in the community.
The ship routinely welcomed aboard members of the Japan Self Defense Force for ship tours and exchanges. In every port visit throughout the region Bonhomme Richard provided an opportunity for both members of the community and military counterparts to experience the capabilities of the ship.
Bonhomme Richard has been on a routine patrol in the Indo-Pacific since late January, participating in the annual U.S.-Thailand co-hosted multinational exercise Cobra Gold and other engagements in the Indo-Pacific. The ship most recently participated in the White Beach Festival in Okinawa where more than 3,500 people came aboard for guided tours.
“We would like to thank the people of Sasebo for their hospitality and friendship during our time here,” said Capt. Larry McCullen, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “Living and working alongside our Japanese allies has been an experience I will never forget, and that the Sailors of Bonhomme Richard can be justifiably proud of now and when they look back on their time in 7th Fleet. Our mission together during the past six years has allowed our nations to maintain security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and has strengthened our Pacific partnerships on land and at sea.”
Members of the crew expressed that they will miss Sasebo and the community.
“I’m definitely going to miss the hospitality of the people here in Sasebo,” said Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class Karen Au, from Diamond Bar, California, who has been serving aboard Bonhomme Richard for more than two years, and has been an active participant during several of Bonhomme Richard’s community outreaches. “They really put the community before themselves and they’re very helpful.”
The Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, based in Okinawa, Japan, is 7th Fleet’s task force for expeditionary operations. The task force oversees forces from Guam to Sasebo to Yokosuka to provide the region with a response capability in the event of a contingency.