LUMUT, Malaysia (NNS) -- USS Vandegrift (FFG 48), USCGC Mellon (WHEC 717) and USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) arrived in Malaysia for the fourth phase of the 16th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, June 6.
Sailors and Coast Guardsmen took part in an opening ceremony with the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) to help kick off the event, June 7.
"2010, believe it or not, marks the 16th year that the United States and Malaysia have held CARAT," said Rear Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific and Task Force 73. "Malaysia was one of the founding partners for this exercise, which highlights the importance of our special relationship between our countries."
Tyson added the relationship goes beyond security concerns, but also contributes to financial stability and economic strength.
"Trade value between Malaysia and the U.S. has increased 56 percent over the last year, and Malaysia is also our 20th largest trading partner," she said.
According to Tyson, growing threats, especially in regards to freedom of the seas, require strong partnerships in the region.
"Maritime threats facing our countries are many and they're evolving every day," continued Tyson. "Piracy remains a significant threat to free trade today. Pirates have adapted advanced tactics in order to avoid capture and to continue their illegal activities. Most of our countries have sent our Navy's ships to the Gulf of Oman to help in the fight against piracy."
Tyson also listed mineral exploitation, narcotics and human trafficking as other illegal activities nations must work together to help stop.
Operations held during CARAT in Malaysia include at-sea ship events, dive operations, damage control training, military symposia, a ship handling simulator and several community service projects.
Capt. Richard L. Clemmons, commodore of Commander Task Group 73.1, said he hopes service members from both nations gain valuable insights and memories from the experiences they'll take part in throughout the week.
"CARAT is a great relationship builder; not only does the Navy enhance its relationships with our partner nations, but the Sailors themselves have the opportunity to experience new cultures and to leave lasting impressions on the people they meet," said Clemmons.
CARAT 2010 features all six original partner nations, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as well as two new participants; Cambodia and Bangladesh. The total number of forces scheduled to participate in the exercise include approximately 17,600 personnel, 50 aircraft and 73 ships.
CARAT is a series of bilateral exercises held annually in Southeast Asia to strengthen relationships and to enhance force readiness.
CARAT contributes to regional maritime security by enhancing capabilities in areas such as interdiction, information sharing, anti-piracy and anti-smuggling.
For more news from Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, visit www.navy.mil/local/carat/.