The 22nd annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations began June 1 with a commemoration ceremony for the Malaysia phase in Sandakan.
As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia.
“Our persistent engagement with our allies and partners through CARAT builds trust and creates strong relationships that endure beyond the exercise series,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 73. “This translates to increased readiness and interoperability that allows us to work closely with navies across the region and enhance cooperative maritime security.”
CARAT Malaysia will take place on the ground in Sandakan and in the waters and airspace of the Sulu Sea. The Malaysian Armed Forces have participated in CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995 and this year’s exercise reflects more than two decades of increasingly complex training ashore, at sea and in the air.
The harbor phase for CARAT Malaysia will feature an amphibious landing, as well as explosive ordnance training, medical and dental capabilities seminars and a civil -engineering project. At sea, flight operations, coordinated gunnery drills and surface warfare maneuvers will highlight an exercise that continues the trend of increasing complexity each year.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Malaysian Armed Forces for 22 years as part of CARAT,” said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore Destroyer Squadron 7. “Over that time we’ve developed a familiarity with each other’s capabilities that allows us to push the envelope with the planning and execution of each exercise, something that is important in such a diverse maritime environment.”
U.S. ships and units participating in CARAT Malaysia include the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), the expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point (T-ESD 1), a P-3C Orion, staff from CTF-73 and CDS-7, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 and Marines from 3rd Marine Division.
Following CARAT Malaysia, additional bilateral phases of CARAT will occur from June through November 2016 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
While the exercise series remains bilateral at its core, elements of CARAT 2016 will include multilateral cooperation ranging from observers to training activities.
Phases vary based on exercise locations, mutual training goals and participating assets. Many CARAT phases feature a broad range of naval competencies including surface warfare; undersea warfare; air defense and amphibious warfare; maritime security operations; riverine operations; jungle warfare; and explosive ordnance disposal; combat construction; diving and salvage; search and rescue; maritime patrol and reconnaissance aviation; maritime domain awareness; military law; public affairs and military medicine; and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
CARAT 2016 will be the most complex series to date. Its continuing relevance for more than two decades speaks to the high quality of exercise events and the enduring value of regional cooperation among allies and partners in South and Southeast Asia.
As U.S. 7th Fleet’s executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 conducts advanced planning, organizes resources and directly supports the execution of maritime exercises, such as the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.