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Bonhomme Richard Backloads 15th MEU

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050430-02
Release Date: 4/30/2005 9:03:00 AM

By Journalist 3rd Class (SW) Ryan Valverde, USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) (BHR) completed its mission in the U.S. Central Command area of operations after backloading the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit April 9-16.

Over the course of eight days, BHR’s combat cargo department safely backloaded and secured Marine gear for sea. Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit 5, helicopters and AV-8B Harriers from 15th MEU’s Air Combat Element and embarked Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 made many trips from Kuwait to the multipurpose amphibious assault ship, bringing with them more than 1,560 Marines, 132 pieces of rolling Marine equipment and 90 pallets of Marine supplies.

“It went pretty smooth,” said Marine Chief Warrant Officer Michael Young, of Denver, BHR’s combat cargo officer.

BHR’s combat cargo department is directly linked to the Navy and embarked Marines. They coordinate the movement, loading and offloading, and storage of the MEU’s vehicles and equipment.

“Combat cargo’s mission is to support ship-to-shore movement,” said Young.

It is composed of Marines stationed aboard BHR, Marines augmented from the 15th MEU, and a handful of Sailors from BHR.

Weeks before the first vehicle reached BHR’s deckplates, the combat cargo leaders planned exactly where each vehicle and pallet would be stored for the transit back to California. Detailed blueprints, or load plans, laid out where Marines would park each vehicle in BHR’s upper and lower vehicle decks.

Marines washed each vehicle thoroughly and inspected them as part of the detailed agricultural inspection.

“They go through a real intense wash-down in order to wash off all the bugs, microscopic bacteria attached to the mud, and dirt on the vehicles before we get back to the United States,” said Young.

Storekeeper 2nd Class (SW/AW) Ricky Oliver, a team leader during combat cargo well deck operations and a resident of San Diego, helped off-load the 15th MEU into the battlefield and then helped bring them back.

“[During the backload] I basically coordinate with the Marines loading and unloading the LCACs. I drove one of the forklifts and guided the Marines on and off the LCAC,” said Oliver.

“When the Marines go ashore, then we need to be able to support the ship-to-shore missions, so we use the Sailors,” said Young. “When we are real busy - such as [during] the backload - to support the longer hours, we incorporate both [Navy and Marine] teams. They work very well together.”

BHR was on station in the Gulf for almost three months, serving as a sea base for the 15th MEU and command ship for Commander, Task Force 58, protecting vital Iraqi oil terminals and conducting maritime security operations (MSO).

MSO sets the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment. MSO complements the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations, in that it denies international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.

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