ABOARD USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea (NNS) -- After completing a major offload of nearly 1,000 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines into Kuwait, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marine Aircraft Group 13, with two embarked AV-8B Harrier squadrons, are ready to support any tasking in the Arabian Gulf.
Embarked aboard an amphibious assault ship for the first time, Marine Aircraft Group 13, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Marine Attack Squadrons 211 and 311 have turned Bonhomme Richard into what some are calling the 'Harrier Carrier.'
"This is not the norm for an amphib," said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) (AW/SW) Wynn Young, leading chief petty officer of Bonhomme Richard's air department. "Our air assets dictate that we operate more like a carrier."
With two squadrons of Harrier strike aircraft aboard, Sailors and Marines accustomed to conducting helicopter operations had to adapt quickly to the change in mission.
"Our Sailors and Marines are incredibly resilient and understand the critical part they play in making this work," said Young. "The deckplate leadership is doing a fine job in further developing them and firmly entrenching the mindset 'one team, one fight.'"
That mindset is a must because Bonhomme Richard will play a significantly different role than most other amphibious assault ships if called into action, Young said.
That role, although considerably different from how large deck amphibs normally operate, is not entirely new. The Navy/Marine Corps team used USS Nassau (LHA 4) as a Harrier Carrier in 1991 for the last week of the Gulf War.
"It is very unique from the traditional mission," said Capt. Jon F. Berg-Johnsen, Bonhomme Richard's commanding officer. "The Amphibious Navy/Marine Team is more flexible than ever. We can tailor our support to respond to different mission requirements from projecting power ashore to responding to a humanitarian crisis."
Since deploying from San Diego Jan. 17, the crew has been training continuously to meet the challenges of the new role.
"On a daily basis, we go through cycles of Harrier launches and recoveries to sharpen our execution and precision skills," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handler) (AW) Derryll Jordan, flight deck leading chief petty officer. "This is the ultimate experience for us, because we are cutting a path others will soon follow."
Being designated the Harrier Carrier doesn't just affect the ship's air department - it affects every Sailor and Marine aboard. From the required logistical support to the operational planning, it's an all-hands effort.
"The ship's company plays an enormous role in managing that ballet that is launching aircraft," said Col. Mark R. Savarese, Marine Aircraft Group 13 commanding officer. "Everyone on this ship has ownership of the airplane, from the seaman or private first classes to the captain of the ship to myself, it takes everyone."
Because it is such an all-hands effort, Savarese directed 'USS Bonhomme Richard' to be painted on each of his Harriers. "I want every Sailor and Marine aboard Bonhomme Richard to feel that their fingerprints are all over that airplane," he said.
Berg-Johnsen said that symbolic gesture continues a long tradition started 224 years ago on the first Bonhomme Richard. That was when John Paul Jones and his Sailors and Marines fought and won the Navy's first battle at sea against the British during the Revolutionary War.
"The name Bonhomme Richard is synonymous with fierce courage in the thick of a fight," said Berg-Johnsen. "The same one team, one fight mentality is abundant in today's Bonhomme Richard just as it was for John Paul Jones and his crew of Sailors and Marines in the first Bonhomme Richard. We share a common cause; the freedom of the United States and all it stands for."
For related news, visit the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/lhd6.