MANILA, Philippines (NNS) -- The first phase of the 13th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series ended June 8 with a festive ceremony in the multi-purpose hall at Philippine Navy Headquarters in Manila.
"We will be concluding this exercise with all participating units safe and secure," said Philippine Navy Commodore Feliciano Angue, the Philippine exercise director. "But more important, we have reaffirmed the bilateral ties between our navies and built on the camaraderie among our Sailors as we continue the work on winning the peace in this part of the world."
Both Angue and Capt. Al Collins, commander of the U.S. CARAT task group, cited the joint effort between the armed forces of the U.S. and the Philippines as a testimony to the solid partnership both nations have developed through the years.
"Together through nine days of exercises ashore and afloat, and projects benefiting the communities and people of the Philippines, we have reaffirmed the close bond and friendship our two countries share," said Collins, commander of Destroyer Squadron 1 and Task Group 73.5. "One of the goals for this year's CARAT, as stated by Adm. (William) Burke during our opening ceremony in Zamboanga, was to build upon the relationship our armed forces have developed since World War II. Well, I have seen that relationship continue to grow firsthand."
CARAT allowed the U.S. and Philippine armed forces the opportunity to enhance practical skills in several tactical areas, including maritime interdiction and surveillance, search and seizure exercises, a mock amphibious raid, force protection, and diving and salvage operations. This combined effort extended to civic-action projects undertaken by the two nations in CARAT's first visit to Mindanao, where the exercise began May 31.
"For the first time, we brought CARAT to the Mindanao region, to Zamboanga and to Basilan," Collins said. "In doing so, we made contact with local communities through civic action projects, providing medical and dental care and civil engineering assistance to areas where those services were needed the most. Our Sailors visited local schools and orphanages throughout Zamboanga and Manila, giving the future of the Philippines a glimpse of the important bond shared by our two nations."
During the nine-day exercise evolution, U.S. and Philippine armed forces combined their efforts in exercises that showcased the expertise of all participants. A U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team from Honolulu and Navy Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1, Det. 11 spent time training with their Philippine counterparts.
"I also watched the Philippine Marine Corps, coordinating with our own Marine Special Operations Training Group, carry out a well-executed amphibious landing at Pilas Island," said Collins. "Such collaborative efforts as these have become increasingly more important in the world we live in today."
Valuable information sharing between the principals in this exercise was facilitated through the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS). CENTRIXS is a real-time, tactical information sharing system that allowed U.S. and Philippine Navy ships to communicate securely and share information in both text and Web-based formats during CARAT.
"We have continued to improve the seamless interoperability between our two navies through CENTRIXS," Collins said. "By expanding CENTRIXS throughout our task group, we were able to take our communication and control capabilities to an entirely new level."
Collins went on to say that the United States and Philippines must continue to train their armed forces together in shared technologies and in ideas to better improve the effectiveness of their combined resources.
"We must not lessen our resolve to forge a future free of uncertainty for all of our citizens, so that the Philippines and the United States may continue in this very special relationship," he said.
The summer-long CARAT exercise series will continue throughout Southeast Asia with stops in Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore.
Task Group 73.5, under the leadership of Collins, consists of the dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) and guided-missile frigates USS Jarrett (FFG 33) and USS Ford (FFG 54).
Collins is embarked aboard Harpers Ferry, which is the flagship for the exercise and operates from Sasebo, Japan as part of the 7th Fleet's Forward Deployed Naval Forces. His staff is based in San Diego. Jarrett is homeported in San Diego, and Ford is homeported in Everett, Wash.
U.S. units taking part in the first phase of CARAT also included Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 7 from Gulfport, Miss., and a P-3C Orion anti-submarine patrol aircraft from Patrol Squadron 4, based at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
Philippine assets included the Philippine Navy patrol ships BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS 37), BRP General Mariano Alvarez (PS 38) and BRP Quezon (PS 70), the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP San Juan (SAR 001), and four BN-2 Islander patrol aircraft flown by the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.