SUBIC BAY, Philippines (NNS) -- The 2004 edition of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series ended Aug. 4 with the closing ceremony of the Philippines phase.
"Through each and everyone's cooperative efforts, this exercise we have just completed will, without question, serve to strengthen and reinforce the importance and relevance of conducting CARAT Philippines in the future," said Capt. Buzz Little, commander of Destroyer Squadron 1 and the CARAT Task Group, during his closing ceremony remarks.
CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises held annually throughout Southeast Asia that began in 1995 by combining a number of existing exercises to be conducted sequentially by a single U.S. Navy task group. CARAT Singapore was conducted from May 31-June 11 while CARAT Brunei took place from June 21-26. The 10-day CARAT Thailand phase ended July 9. CARAT Malaysia was performed from July 12-22. The CARAT Task Group ships arrived in the Philippines July 27 for the final phase of the CARAT series.
CARAT Philippines included numerous milestones, including the presence of two of the most advanced platforms in the world - the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS McCampbell (DDG 85). The destroyers were key during at-sea tactical evolutions.
"The CARAT Task Group had the honor to welcome aboard Philippine Navy sailors and officers who not only had the chance to observe up close the joint tactical free play, but also the opportunity to share ideas and learn something about one another on a personal level, which has been the key to CARAT's success," Little said.
Nearly 2,500 U.S. and Philippine Navy and Coast Guard personnel worked in tandem during a variety of symposia, diving operations, at-sea scenarios, and community relations projects during the eight-day exercise. Law enforcement personnel from U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) demonstrated their maritime law enforcement techniques during a maritime boarding event.
"That training demonstrates our maritime and militaries' commitment to not only sharing information and situational awareness, but also the common goal of securing international seas and channels of commerce," Little said.
The dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) invited PN Sailors and officers aboard to observe and participate in amphibious evolutions and to participate in landing craft, air cushion (LCAC) operations with Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 Det. Western Pacific, which is assigned to the ship. Fort McHenry also hosted members of the Philippine Naval Special Warfare Group (SWAG) 91 for an in-port maritime boarding event with U.S. Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land).
Near Manila, the rescue and salvage ship USS Salvor (ARS 52) conducted dive training and salvage operations with RPN divers.
In the surrounding communities, medical, dental and veterinary personnel set up clinics at local schools, to provide inoculations and preventative health care to local residents and farmers during a civic action project.
Twenty U.S. Navy Seabees and 17 of their PN counterparts worked together to build a two-classroom expansion at an elementary school. The engineering civic action, or ENCAP, project began July 6 and ended with the dedication ceremony Aug. 4.
Navy Seabees, volunteers from U.S. Navy ships and RPN construction teams restored the roof of a high school classroom damaged in 1991 by volcanic ash, and replaced 30 blackboards at an elementary school.
"A hallmark throughout CARAT Philippines 2004 has also been what crews from U.S. and Philippine armed forces do together on behalf of the communities that graciously host them," Little said.
The local community also had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Sailors during shipboard tours. Hundreds of family members schoolchildren, grandparents, government officials and the press toured the decks of the U.S. Navy warships and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter.
"Many left with an appreciation and better understanding of not only U.S. naval assets, but also the skill and diversity of the crews that run and operate our ships," Little said.
While CARAT Philippines 2004 will be remembered for achieving many combined technical, tactical and operational goals, it could not have happened without the diverse backgrounds of the U.S. Navy and PN Sailors and officers personally involved in the exercise, Little said.
"The goals we achieved could not have happened without the personal and professional interaction, and respect between our armed forces," Little said. "The friendships made today have laid the groundwork for, and will certainly benefit, future generations of Sailors, officers, Coast Guardsmen and leaders."
The embarked U.S. CARAT Task Group, under the leadership of Little, was based aboard Fort McHenry with additional members aboard McCampbell. Little and his staff are based in San Diego, as is McCampbell. Mellon is homeported in Seattle. Russell and Salvor are homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Fort McHenry is part of the U.S. 7th Fleet's forward deployed naval force (FDNF) operating from Sasebo, Japan. Other elements, including a P-3C Orion assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 46, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and an SH-60B Seahawk helicopter from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 49 (HSL 49), based at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif. The Seabees are assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3. Approximately 1,400 U.S. personnel took part in CARAT Philippines, along with a P-3C Orion and an SH-50 Seahawk aircraft.
Nearly 1,200 Philippine Navy and Coast Guard personnel, along with the five Philippine Navy ships and two aircraft are participating. The ships include BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS 37), BRP General Mariano Alvarez (PS 38), BRP Lanao del Norte (LC 504), BRP Hilario Ruiz (PG 378) and BRP Alberto Navarette (PG 394).
For more on CARAT, visit www.clwp.navy.mil/carat2004.
For related news, visit the Logistics Group Western Pacific Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/clwp.