The multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) was certified for well deck operations April 26, following two days of ship-to-shore maneuvers off the coast of Southern California.
Bonhomme Richard launched and recovered a wide variety of landing craft, including amphibious assault vehicles (AAV), utility landing craft (LCU) and combat rubber raiding craft (CRRC). The ship also launched and recovered lightering amphibious recovery craft (LARC) for the first time in almost five years. A month earlier, BHR operated with air cushion landing craft (LCAC).
“It takes a lot of training to launch and recover the various landing craft Bonhomme Richard supports,” said Senior Chief Boatswain
’s Mate (SW) Mark Cass
, deck department leading chief petty officer.
These craft give BHR the ability to perform many different missions. AAVs can carry Marines ashore into battle, CRRCs can conduct high-speed special operations missions and LARCs perform surf-zone salvage operations. But according to Cass, LCACs and LCUs are the workhorses of big deck amphibious ships.
“LCUs can carry 160 tons of equipment to the beach or to other ships or LCUs operating nearby,” said Cass, a native of Daytona Beach, Fla. “LCACs are our over-the-horizon landing craft.”
Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class (SW) Darnell Hall
, a ramp marshal who is qualified to launch and recover each of the different craft that operate from amphibious assault ships, said that each craft requires different handling.
Hall, who grew up in Oxnard, Calif., has been aboard BHR for five years and has deployed with the ship three times. He said that working with the different craft is enjoyable, but he particularly liked bringing a LARC back aboard.
“The last time we had LARCs on board was in September 2001 when I was a Seaman here,” said Hall.
Hall said that serving as a ramp marshal gives him a great sense of purpose.
“There is so much satisfaction that comes from knowing that we help the ship and our Marine counterparts accomplish their missions,” Hall said.
According to Bonhomme Richard’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Steve Greene, the certification of the ship’s well deck is another example of the professionalism of BHR’s crew and the ship’s deck department.
Greene said the well deck is part of the triple threat BHR brings to any theater of operations.
“BHR is the ultimate action set. It comes complete with its own army, navy and air force. When loaded with our Marines and their aircraft and equipment, we have an awesome capability to deliver combat power or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief ashore. Launching LCACs, LCUs, CRRCs, and LARCs from our welldeck is just one way to deliver this combat power,” Greene said. “But the key factor to our success is this crew and the professionalism and enthusiasm they exhibit every day. They are the heart of this warship.”
Bonhomme Richard is currently training and preparing for operations in support of the global war on terrorism.
By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Walter T. Ham IV, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs